GIVEN its potential in terms of good climate and abundant water sources, Salvador Benedicto town is being positioned to become the highland organic vegetable capital of Negros Occidental.

Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino told SunStar Bacolod that the increasing tourist arrivals in the province require additional production of fresh and healthy high-value crops.

Masculino said the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA) is currently focusing on boosting production of high-value crops, mainly vegetables, to support the local food industry specifically restaurants and culinary destinations.

“We are working on further developing Salvador Benedicto as major source of highland organic vegetables given its elevation comparable to Benguet and Canlaon City in Negros Oriental,” he said, adding that “it is just a matter of looking for farmers willing to go into vegetable production.”

Cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, and carrots are just among the vegetables that are produced in upland areas. These crops are more suited for highland places due to certain climatic range.

OPA has already made initial talks with the Municipal Agriculture Office of Salvador Benedicto. They will also present the proposal to Mayor Marxlen de la Cruz.

Masculino said the local government would support the initiative because vegetable has higher profitability than rice.

Salvador Benedicto really has huge potential for vegetable production given its ideal climate and good accessibility to irrigation, he added.

What the town needs now is just introduction of technology among its farmers, or mentoring to start producing highland organic vegetables, the OPA chief said.

Earlier this month, the Provincial Board approved the province’s 20 percent Provincial Development Fund for this year amounting to P393 million.

Part of which is the support to high-value crops development program amounting to P5 million.

Masculino said the fund will be used to assist farmers of Salvador Benedicto to start planting high-value crops, mainly vegetables.

The initial amount would also cover provision of other interventions like distribution of planting materials as well as marketing assistance, Masculino said, adding that they intend to allocate additional fund for the program implementation this year.

“Currently, there are some farmers who are already producing vegetables in the locality. We have to expand and scale them up to boost production,” he added.