The strawberry is a tropical fruit that thrives well in La Trinidad, the capital town of Benguet, which is known as the Salad Bowl of the Philippines. Strawberry production has been a major source of livelihood of thousands of farmers living in the different parts of the valley and farming certain areas owned by the State-run Benguet State University (BSU).
For the past 36 years, La Trinidad has been celebrating the Strawberry Festival which has grown to become one of the most attended festivals in the region. The Strawberry Festival has been timed to come just after the Panagbenga or the Baguio flower festival of nearby Baguio City. This allows a seamless transition for visitors from flowers to strawberries, two famous products of these places. Even during the Panagbenga season, La Trinidad gets a good share of the city’s visitors as, people flock to the valley for the experience of picking strawberry themselves and getting educated in the process.
Time and again, Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan has been encouraging the local officials of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay to time their own major crowd-drawing events right after the Panagbenga highlights so that their towns can get a slice of the visitors’ pie to help sustain the growth of their respective tourism industries. La Trinidad town responded with the Strawberry Festival as its own unique identity and this has significantly improved through the years. The other neighboring towns of Benguet have yet to establish the right schedule for their own major festivals.
Despite the rapidly growing demand for strawberries, the plantation area of strawberries within the BSU property was diminished by over 4 hectares to pave the way for the construction of the multi-million Benguet AgriPinoy trading Center (BAPTC), thus, some of the strawberry farmers moved to other areas not only in the different barangays of La Trinidad but also in other parts of Benguet. There are some patches of strawberry production in Tuba, Itogon, Bokod, Buguias, Kibungan and even in Bauko, Mountain Province. Baguio City has also a 3-hectare strawberry plantation area opened recently for strawberry picking in Bilis, Sto. Tomas Central which complements the strawberry-picking activities in La Trinidad.
The local government, in coordination with experts from BSU, are into state-of-the-art researches for ways to how to enhance the sustainable production of quality planting materials that also produce quality fruits for the benefit of the strawberry industry. These quality planting materials must be distributed to farmers for the production quality strawberries for the local and national markets considering the enormous demand for the fruit.
We support the initiatives being undertaken by the strawberry farmers, the local government, the concerned government and other concerned stakeholders to sustain the sufficient supply of strawberries not only for local consumers but also for visitors who want to experience strawberry picking in the farms in the valley. Let us now look for alternative ways on how to propagate the strawberry plants for the locality to have a year-round supply of strawberries as part of our tourism promotion year-round. The stakeholders must continue to formulate both short-term and long-term plans to ensure sustained year-round strawberry and strawberry-based product production. This will ensure sustainable sources of livelihood for the increasing number of farmers involved in the production of the fruit and its processing.
We must encourage the establishment of strawberry plantation areas inside and outside the province as a welcome development so more people will benefit from the industry. The more, the merrier. Strawberry production of various varieties is available in strategic areas in Baguio and Benguet and visitors have a chance to enjoy strawberry picking and tasting. If strawberry production other areas in the region will prosper, people will have the chance to taste various varieties of strawberries in a single trip around the region.
Let us continue to individually and collectively improve the state of the strawberry industry by enhancing the quality and increasing the volume produced in the different strawberry producing areas. The fruit may be the great come-on of the local tourism industry so let us not kill the fruit that bears the sweet taste of success.
Let us use appropriate and safe technologies to improve the strawberry production so that we can call the La Trinidad strawberries as forever.