WITH coronavirus disease (Covid-19) aggressively wreaking havoc on the global economy, the agriculture sector continues to lead the way en route to the country's economic recovery.

Early Tuesday morning, September 29, Agriculture Secretary William Dar led the ceremonial send-off of the first batch of "okra" (ladyfinger) export to Japan at the Pairpags Center in NAIA Road, signaling the country's attempt to corner a large chunk of Japan's high demand for agricultural products.

"As other business sectors continue to bleed on account of an economic slowdown due to this Covid-19 pandemic, we are blessed to have a sustained activity on the agri-industry front," Dar said in front of the farmers' group that made the export of local farm products possible.

The okra export batch was harvested from different farms from 14 barangays in Tarlac -- Victoria, Balayang, Palacpalac, Batang-Batang, Lalapac, Mayang, San Pascual, Villa Bacolor, Matayumtayum, San Jose, San Manuel, Balingcanaway, Cutcut and Lapaz.

The project involved 300 farmers led by young farmer-entrepreneurs Jeffrey Fernandez and Rap Pelayo of Jel Farms.

According to Fernandez and Pelayo, with the present set-up, a farmer can earn up to P90,000 to P100,000 net of expenses per hectare. Same goes with another in-demand agricultural product for Japan -- edamame. Both products are in demand in the cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe and Nagoya in Japan.

Harvesting schedules are from September to July, while planting can be done all year round.

Targeted for okra and edamame plantation expansion is 900 to 1,000 hectares.

But Dar said the earnings could easily reach up to P120,000 per hectare for both okra and edamame if the farmers could avail themselves of a cold storage, which he assured would be prioritized by his office.

"Under my watch, I assure you that the Department of Agriculture will extend all the assistance we can give to every farmer, including the group involved in this okra-edamame exportation to Japan, to enhance our agricultural production, and in the process, advance the livelihood of our farmers," said Dar. (PR)