Catanduanes using PRDP to win back ‘crab capital’ title

LEGAZPI CITY, Oct. 28 (PNA) – The island-province of Catanduanes is using the foreign-funded Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) as a stepping stone towards becoming once more the “Crab Capital of the Philippines”.

“We see from the PDRP an opportunity to redevelop Catanduanes as the country’s top producer of mud crabs and enable the province to win back its Crab Capital title lost to the Visayas several decades back,” provincial agriculturist Roberto Ceballo said in a statement reaching here Wednesday.

The Provincial Project Management and Implementation Unit (PPMIU) of Catanduanes, he said, is now working closely with the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) PRDP Regional Project Coordination Office (RPCO) for Bicol in the preparation of the Provincial Commodity Investment Plan (PCIP) on mud crabs (Scylla serrata).

The PCIP is a three-year rolling consensus plan between the DA and the provincial government that contains specific infrastructure and enterprise sub-projects and other interventions to boost the identified provincial commodity based on the value chain analysis (VCA) conducted with stakeholders.

When completed at least before the end of this year, Ceballo said, the PCIP will be submitted to the Project Support Office (PSO) of the PDRP for approval and funding support.

The PRDP is a foreign-funded project being implemented by DA as a platform for a modern and climate-smart agriculture in the region and other parts of the country.

Its national implementation carries a Php27.535-billion total fund, consisting of Php20.553-billion loan from the World Bank, Php3.579 billion as national government counterpart, Php3.118 billion equity of the local government units and Php287-million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

It involves 80 provincial local government units (PLGUs) and agri-fishery stakeholders nationwide in an attempt to realize the goals of improved food security and increased incomes, climate resiliency and enhanced environmental policies and governance.

In six years—2013-2019, the project aims to raise annual real farm incomes of household beneficiaries by five percent, increase the value of annual marketed output by seven percent and ensure that 20 percent more farmers and fishers benefit from DA services

Ceballo said that as arrived at during consultations with local industry stakeholders, developing the Catanduanes mud crab industry will help raise the income of crab gatherers, stockers and fishpond owners in the province.

The development of an integrated crab sanctuary, which is being made part of the PCIP, would also help promote the province’s ecotourism prospects, said Ceballo, adding that the island presently has a total of 589 hectares mangrove ponds that produce a substantial volume of crablets locally called kuto-kuto, langaw-langaw and thumbtacks.

Kuto-kuto refers to the smallest size, as small as lice, of crablet which becomes langaw-langaw as it grows fly-sized, then thumbtacks when it becomes as big as the head of thumbtacks.

Since these varieties of young mud crab species that are abundant in the swampy wild of Catanduanes are ideal starters for grow-out growers and aquaculture operators, local fisherfolk have been indiscriminately poaching them and selling to traders that ship them out to buyers in other parts of Bicol.

There is an increasing demand for crabs in both domestic and international markets, especially during peak months like December, that makes supply inadequate and market price increases.

As reported in 2014, market price at its peak ranged from Php600 to Php750 per kilo for 500 gram crabs—prices that please much crab farmers and wish they had more crabs to harvest for the season.

Hence, the PCIP on the mangrove crab aims to establish a sustainable supply of crablets by protecting the spawning ground, protecting the mangrove areas and other fishing grounds where crablets grow, and introducing new production technologies for crab growing and fattening.

It also intends to improve existing producers’ productive capacity and competitiveness as the province is even eyeing the international market for its mud crabs.

“We are looking at the five biggest crab-consuming countries—China, USA, Japan, Korea and Thailand. Cornering just a portion of the international market, especially during the winter season when these countries experience considerable drop in the supply of crabs, would be a big lift to our industry,” Gov. Araceli Wong had earlier said.

All the province needs is the participation of all stakeholders, including the private sector, in the provincial government’s efforts to maximize the development of the industry towards the production of more export quality products, she stressed.

The PDRP will be a big boost once the PCIP for mud crab is approved and funded, given that the project involves the provision of key infrastructure, facilities, technology, and support information using science-based tools such as vulnerability and suitability assessment, VCA, geomapping and geotagging, according to Ceballo.

So far, the Catanduanes mud crab industry is enjoying the support of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of labor and Employment and Catanduanes State University.

The provincial government, for its part, is maintaining the Catanduanes Crab Center (CCC) which serves as a source of crablets for grow-out and fattening by fishpond operators.

It carries out a special program for "queen" or "gravid" crabs designed to ensure the sustainability of the industry in the province, which originally owned the “crab capital of the Philippines” title and lost to Negros about three decades ago.

Since the start of its operations way back in 2007, the CCC, according to Wong, has not only addressed the rampant poaching and illegal transport of crablets out of the island but also standardized the operations of the crab nursery and the culture of crab larvae to crablet sizes for local grow-out production.

She added that the province’s mud crab industry is focusing on the production of female crabs that play an important role in marketing, particularly in Asian countries such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. (PNA) CTB/LOR/FGS/DOC/CBD