The agriculture sector in CENTRAL Luzon remains vibrant despite the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has said. In a statement, the DA’s regional executive director, Crispulo Bautista Jr., said that in 2021, the government agency recorded historically the highest rice production nationally and in the region. “Nationally, we produced 19.96 million metric tons (MT), which is a record. In central Luzon, we were able to produce 3.74 million MT, almost 20% of the national rice production. This is why we [Region 3] are called the rice bowl of the Philippines,” he said. Besides rice, 65 percent of the onions produced in the country come from the region, particularly from the province of Nueva Ecija. The region also ranks second nationally in terms of production, supplying almost 50% of Metro Manila’s vegetable needs in terms of high-value cash crops or those used for the pinakbet dish. Central Luzon also has the highest maize productivity and can compete even with other Southeast Asian countries, averaging almost seven tons per year. Bautista added that the agency encourages diversification and intercropping of vegetables as these have a short gestation and can provide more income to farmers and urged them to venture into vegetable production as well, especially those whose land is too large to be irrigated. , adding that Metro Manila is an easily accessible market for their products. “In addition to our usual crops in the region, we also have vegetable crops in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija. We are now extending this so that in the event of a shortage of vegetables from the highlands of the Cordillera region, we have our own supply in the area. Apart from that, there are also farmers in Bataan who grow coffee,” he said.