Mindanao, with six regions, has the highest poverty incidence (36% in 2015) among the three main island groups including Luzon and Visayas. The region hosts a disproportionate percentage of rural poor. Agriculture diversification is key to reducing the high rural poverty.
But what had happened in the past 20 years? Has Mindanao diversified? One metric is the change in cropped area over time.
Over the past 20 years (1998-2018), the changes were:
• The harvested areas of the top 10 crops grew by almost 23%.
• The harvested areas of the top three crops (rice, corn, coconut) increased 15%. Rice expanded faster than coconut. Corn fell. Their total share fell to 81% in 2018 from 85% in 1998. For the other “minor” seven, their shares rose to 19% from 15%.
Meanwhile, these were the advancers or crops which increased their harvested areas faster than rice (+53%):
• Banana, rubber, coffee, mango, sugarcane, and pineapple.
• Among minor crops, outside the top ten: durian, cacao, abaca.
All regions remain heavily dependent on coconut, rice and corn.
1. Three regions fared well in crop diversification: Davao, Northern Mindanao, and Soccsksargen in that order. The first two regions performed even better.
2. The poor diversifiers: Caraga and ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao)
3. The diversification drivers included:
(a) Davao: banana, coffee, and sugarcane. Special mention: cacao and durian
(b) Northern Mindanao: sugarcane, banana, cassava
(c) Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos): rubber, banana, sugarcane, pineapple. Special citation: oil palm.
Is there a correlation between diversification and poverty incidence? The relationship appears weak, except perhaps in Davao.
The main conclusion is: Mindanao has not diversified enough over the past 20 years. Past research also shows that low productivity is the major factor why poverty incidence is unusually high in many regions.
This is the challenge for the Department of Agriculture and the local government units. Given the experience of banana, pineapple, and coffee and cacao; private sector investment is primordial. They must be given flexibility in land access, crop choices, and business models to drive diversification and job creation to the next level and reduce poverty incidence. There is merit in consolidating farms under one management to achieve high productivity and market-led diversification.
This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.
Rolando T. Dy is the Co-Vice Chair of the MAP AgriBusiness Committee and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific.