Rose producers go organic to meet ASEAN requirement; help needed

LA TRINIDAD, Benguet — Farmers producing roses and chrysanthemums are starting to shift to organic production to be able to improve their produce and compete with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) markets.

In an interview, Alno village chief Barangay Captain Jonie Puroc said some farmers have tried adding chicken dung for fertilizer and saw an improved size in chrysanthemum flowers. Farmers are also trying it on roses with the hope to see the same effect.

In partnership with the government agencies and the Benguet State University (BSU), the farmers are able to adapt to the good practices of the other countries which include the packaging to prevent damage during transport.

As former president of the rose farmers cooperative prior to being a barangay captain, Puroc said “we have formed an organic practitioners’ association” to advocate the promotion of the use of organic fertilizers.

The farmers’ stance came after noticing the increasing soil acidity in Alno, affecting the production of flowers. He also mentioned of the infestations which are experienced every summer due to the heat of the sun and the molds during the rainy season.

Puroc, a rose producer himself relayed the observation that during the rainy season, synthetic fertilizers are washed away due to flood which needs the re-application, but noticed that chicken dung as fertilizer stays on the soil even after continues rain. Chicken dung also lowers the cost of production compared to the use of purely commercial fertilizer.

The rose varies of the farmers, he added is the same variety used through the years. “We are hoping the government can help us procure better varieties so that we can have bigger and quality roses so that we can compete with imported roses,” he said.

“We welcome help if there is. We want to improve the quality of roses so that we can compete with the imported flowers brought to the country,” Puroc explained.

Alno has achieved the status as the major producer of roses in the country. It now produces a bigger amount than Barangay Bahong known as rose gardens of the country, after locals there started shifting to chrysanthemum production due to soil acidity.

La Trinidad, Benguet produces about 2,000 bundles of roses daily. A bundle has two dozen. The roses are grown in Barangays Alno, Bahong, Alapang and Bineng. About 80 percent of the production is brought to Metro Manila or 200 to 250 boxes daily average.

Alno produces about 70 percent roses, 20 percent anthuriums and 10 percent chrysanthemums.

Puroc said Alno farmers have been producing roses and chrysanthemum for decades using synthetic fertilizer which has accumulated in the soil, making it acidic, affecting the quality of the flowers.

Aside from acidity, the “thrips” infestation which sucks the juice of the petals causing the dryness of the flower is a constant problem during the summer season. Through the years, this has never been addressed, Puroc said.

Thrips lowers the production of roses by 50 percent during the summer season.

Puroc hopes the national government can help them cope with the ASEAN regional quality requirement as he also said they are open to the idea of processing of rose derivatives like oil and scent for perfumes, lotion and cologne if there are interested investors for the locality. Liza Agoot/