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EDITORIAL: Agri-math

WHILE its lineup of topics was already interesting – like updates on priority high value crops in Bicol, best agri-entrepreneurship practices on these high value crops, and opportunities in agri- entrepreneurship – what made the Farmer’s Forum conducted by the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry as part of the ongoing Bicol Business Month even more engaging was the entry of Mr. Clemente S. Manaog, the provincial statistics officer -- and his numbers -- as one of the forum’s resource speakers. A non-agriculturist, he wasn’t an odd man out either. In fact, the farmers needed more the numbers that Mr. Manaog was glad to provide because, after all, the forum was about food supply, capacity to compete, and productivity. As to how much food we should produce, Manaog says the mouths to feed have significantly multiplied during the last five years alone. He said that from 2010 to 2015, his office has determined that Camarines Sur’s population has increased by 130,173 people more – from a total population of 1,822,371 in 2010 to 1,952,544 five years after, or an increase of 1.32% every year. Has our food production increased, too, during that period? Also according to him, Naga’s population has reached 196,003 as of 2015. Combine that with the increased population of 89,545 of nearby Pili town, the two LGUs are good enough to have a combined population of 285, 548, with an excess of 35,548, as minimum requirement to make one congressional district, or one congressional representative. But if Naga would be more patient, it is estimated that by 2020, Naga would have a population of a little more than P250,000 to become by itself a single congressional district. Meanwhile, Libmanan town, the province’s rice bowl, has now a population of 108,716, or only 3,041 short to equalize Iriga City’s 111,757 as of 2015. Gainza still remains to be the town with the smallest population --11,262 souls. The PSA survey also confirms that there are still more men than women in Camarines Sur – 104 men for every 100 women. But listen to this – there are more unmarried (single) men than single women in Camarines Sur. Is it about economics? Or man’s inferiority in the race for more food to eat vis-à-vis the number of mouth to feed. Or haven’t we reached that point when man and woman should share the responsibility of producing food, or when man should not be ashamed to toil the land even if the woman she married had finished school and preferred to work in the office because from our vantage point we see more women than men graduating each year from college. The statistics officer tells us that 60% of CamSur farmers and 75% of fishermen are below the poverty line. This is distressing considering that CamSur, and for that matter Bicol, is basically an agricultural province or region. To visualize how many are dirt poor (those that don’t eat three square meals a day) in our province, they are more or less 1.2 million, or approximately 666,000 families whose members rarely sleep with their stomachs full. But Manaog says his office is concerned not only with population census and demographics. They are involved, too, in every human enterprise that requires numbers, including plants and livestock. He said we have bright prospects in at least four industrial crops that Bicol abundantly grow: coconut, abaca, sugarcane, and pili. How we shall convert these into productive sources of livelihood for as many number of our people should be for every one of us, especially for the experts and the government, to work on, given that we have been smacked with the numbers right in our face.

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