THE four-day 12th Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival (NIOFF), which opens Wednesday, is seen to further boost the efforts to expand organic production in the province.
Leading the opening rites at the Provincial Capitol Grounds in Bacolod City is Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat along with officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA)-Western Visayas and the Provincial Government.
Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino Wednesday, November 22, said the festival is an ideal venue to gather local farmers in the province and promote organic farming.
Masculino said that aside from showcasing products, the festival is also encouraging more production of organic produce.
“While we continue to encourage organic farmers to increase their production, we are also urging conventional farmers to shift into organic system of farming,” he added.
DA records showed that Negros Occidental currently has about 16,000 hectares of agricultural lands devoted to organic farming.
These farms are grown by almost 17,000 organic adaptors, mostly small farmers.
The prevailing number is still short by almost 4,000 hectares based on the mandated 20,000 hectares.
Under Republic Act 10060, or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, Negros Occidental should devote five percent of its almost 400,000-hectare agriculture area to organic farming.
This year, the DA is eyeing a 10 percent expansion, equivalent to an additional 1,600 hectares of organic farms.
Masculino said there are farm areas in the province that are "in conversion" stage.
“We need to continue promoting the push for expansion by encouraging these farmers and producers fully adapt organic farming,” he added.
Themed “Go Organic for Health and Prosperity,” the festival also underscored the big role of organic to the health of the people as well as in increasing the income of farmers.
It will gather organic agriculture advocates, entrepreneurs, and other stakeholders, including farmers and producers, exhibitors, representatives from academe, and consumers, among others in Negros Island and other provinces in the country.
The event will also include exhibitions of organic products and by-products, and showcase of sustainable innovations and technologies practiced by different farmer-producers and advocates.
Lectures and sessions on various organic agriculture topics will be given by international and local speakers, including “The World and Asia Organic Movement in the Era of Organic 3.0” by the event’s keynote speaker Dr. Zhou Zejiang, president of the Asia Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement.