An Australian-supported study has recommended that more investments should be poured into roads and port infrastructure in Mindanao to accelerate the movement of vegetables and fruits produced on the island.
Better roll-on-roll-off shipping services for greater connectivity of markets and port operation where there is scope for privatization should also be provided
Accurate and timely market information, especially to farmers, should likewise be generated, asserted the study titled "Strengthening Markets of High-Value Fruits and Vegetables in Mindanao: The Case of Transport and Shipping Service Improvement."
The report is the output of a two-year research project titled "Transport Policy Study: Promoting Efficiency and Productivity of Flow of Goods - A Focus on the Transportation Needs of Mindanao Region.".
Funded by the Australian Research Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the study was implemented by the Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization-Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEAMEO SEARCA).
Los Baños-based SEARCA, headed by Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr., is one of the 20 regional centers of SEAMEO, an inter-government treaty organization founded in 1965 to promote cooperation among Southeast Asian nations through activities in education, science, and culture.
The research team was headed by Dr. Gilberto Llanto, senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). With him were Dr. Mercedita Sombilla, former SEARCA Research and Development manager and new agriculture staff director of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA); Karen Quilloy of SEARCA; and Francis Mark Quimba, PIDS research specialist.
Mindanao, as the country's major source of agricultural commodities, produced 1.54 million tons of food and live animals in 2009, of which 1.43 million tons were shipped to Luzon (49 percent) and the Visayas (44 percent), the study reported.
About 70 percent of the total volume of the country's major fruits and vegetables are produced in Mindanao. Of these, more than 90 percent is transported to major urban centers in Luzon and the Visayas.
"However," the study pointed out, "in an island archipelago like the Philippines, the movement of highly perishable crops such as fruits and vegetables from key production areas in Mindanao to intermediate and terminal markets within and outside the island-region is hampered by the inadequacy of efficient and effective transport systems and port and shipping services."
It added: "This limits the potential gains that supply chain participants may realize from their produce, given the increasing demand for high quality and safe fruits and vegetables in the Philippines and abroad."