Corn farmers in Isabela, Cotabato successfully avoid 80% potential damage from FAW pest with DEKALB varieties

July 30, 2020

Corn farmers in key corn-growing provinces of Isabela and South Cotabato have successfully controlled the Fall armyworm (FAW) using resistant varieties, including DEKALB corn hybrids.

   FAW, which has become a major insect pest in the country, is estimated to bring potential damage between 60% to 80% if corn crops are not managed properly during infestation. In Region 2, up to 80% damage was seen in at least 3,000 hectares in the current season. A fast-reproducing pest that had swiftly spread over Africa, Middle East, and Asia, FAW has brought huge losses to many Filipino corn farmers in previous seasons and appears to continue impacting farms until today.

   “It’s only now that I’ve experienced growing corn where worms penetrate deeply into the plants, not just the leaves,” according to Jaime Acedo, a farmer based in Aurora, Isabela. “We are seeing nearly all plants damaged and we don’t expect any yield from this level.”

   However, farmer cooperators of Bayer Crop Science (BCS) have witnessed a clear advantage of using FAW-resistant varieties, eliminating the need for manual pest control. According to Acedo, DEKALB VT DoublePro varieties only had 2-3% damage in their field trials, owing to its built-in resistance to multiple lepidopteran insects like Asian corn borer, corn earworm, common cutworm, and the notorious FAW.

Fall armyworm-infested corn plant
Dekalb corn unscathed by Fall armyworm

   Farmers continue to seek help from the government as the FAW is feared to infest even other crops. “FAW is polyphagous, which means it feeds on different kinds of food,” said John Fajardo, BCS Agronomic System Manager for Corn in Southeast Asia and Pakistan. “It has been observed to feed on rice, sugarcane, vegetables, sorghum, and millet.”

   In another trial plot in Polomolok, South Cotabato, DEKALB 8719S only had a low pest incidence of 2% based on field observations done 22 days after planting, which was aired over a live Facebook webinar.

   “We observed that the leaves and stems of the corn plant did not have any holes,” said Jonel Caberto, BCS Market Development Manager in Mindanao. “Once the FAW seeps into the plant and tries to feed on it, it will stop and eventually perish due to the effectiveness of the VT DoublePro technology.”

   All DEKALB varieties with VT DoublePro have 5% refuge in a bag. This government requirement is part of the Insect Resistance Management (IRM) strategy of the industry aimed at minimizing the risk of a resistant population of the target insect pests to grow. With this approach, farmers are assured of the longevity of the technology value to support their livelihood.

   Region 2 has suffered serious damage from FAW this season, totaling 3,700 hectares, according to Mindaflor Aquino, Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 2 senior science research specialist. “We only include areas that have been validated, but if you go around corn areas in the region, the actual damage may even be bigger,” said Aquino.

   In the Philippines, FAW was first observed in March 2019 in Piat, Cagayan. “It was first identified morphologically by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization). From Piat, Cagayan, it was then seen in Gonzaga, Sta. Ana, and other municipalities until it reached the provinces of Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, and Quirino,” said Aquino.

   FAW reproduces quickly with female adults laying 2,000 eggs in a single instance. Its dispersion is fast as it can fly at night over a 100-kilometer distance and up to 500 kilometers with the aid of wind. The insect pest has not spared even some varieties of Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) corn with single mode of action, which has been known to be resistant only to the Asiatic corn borer.

   “Before we thought it’s good that there are very few farmers in Region 2 that still use OPV (open pollinated variety). In Cagayan Valley, we are the highest in the use of Bt corn,” added Aquino. “Unfortunately, this season, we have also seen FAW infestation in Bt corn.” (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Duterte anticipated to make new SONA promise to farm sector in light of MSME closure due to COVID 19

July 25, 2020

Private stakeholders anticipate President Rodrigo Duterte’s new promise to the farm sector in his July 27 State of the Nation Address (SONA) in light of closures of micro small and medium enterprises (MSME) and poverty-worsening impact of COVID 19 to 4.1 million rural poor.

   The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) and the Agri Fisheries Alliance (AFA) said they hope Duterte will consider alternative means of rescuing the entire agriculture value chain from the pandemic’s impact. 

   That is even as agriculture’s economic significance has been undervalued for decades despite its huge potential as a gateway for industrialization and economic recovery.

   “Most of the MSMEs that are closing down due to the pandemic are in the countryside, adversely affecting farmers,” said PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.

   PCAFI stresses that now that government’s financial resource is in dearth, it seeks support that does not necessarily require any budget but is extremely crucial just to tide the sector over.

   “There are immediate executive actions that could be undertaken by the current administration that do not require budget.  But it can immediately bring respite to the ailing agricultural sector. These are remedial steps that don’t go against our WTO (World Trade Organization) agreement,” Fausto said.

   This refers to trade remedies sanctioned by WTO and government rules, particularly Safeguard Measures Act (2000), Anti-Dumping Act of 1999, and Countervailing Act of 1999. Philippines itself ratified such laws to uphold its farmers’ welfare amid trade liberalization.

   “In the WTO agreement, there are winners and losers. Other countries have supported, protected, and subsidized their losing sectors. This is not true with the Philippines.  The losing sector was advised to swim on their own and left to drown as local farmers and fishers cannot compete with the highly-subsidized imported agricultural products,” said Fausto.

   “Imported products help more the farmers of importing countries to the detriment of our local farmers and fishers.” 

   Department of Agriculture has just rejected the poultry sector’s petition to stop issuance of import permit for chicken imports that caused chicken price to collapse to P30 per kilo during the COVID 19 lockdown.

PCAFI led by Danilo V. Fausto, president (bottom row, fifth from left).

   Fausto said there are 26 instances of countries regulating their imports during this pandemic as reported to the WTO.  But the Philippines has not acted on even one import regulation.

   “Other countries have prohibited importation of chicken from Brazil citing as a reason that their dressing plants and manufacturers have COVID-19. The same could be made as an excuse to suspend importation of meat coming from the United States, New Zealand and Australia,” Fausto said.

   Even if possible protest may arise from these countries if Philippines suspends chicken importation, this will have huge benefits to saving the poultry sector.

   “A few months of suspension while negotiation is on-going could give enough elbow room for local producers to breathe, stay alive, and recover from the losses from the pandemic.”

   AFA stressed Duterte must now prioritize agriculture amid the pandemic as it is a primary hope for economic recovery with its tremendous potential for growth.

   “Agriculture contributes 33% to our GDP. It has an additional 10%  contribution in food manufacturing  and 15% in agriculture-allied services,” said AFA National Coordinator Ernesto Ordonez. 

   “The great majority of our poor is found in agriculture where our rural poverty is 25%, double Indonesia’s 13% and triple Thailand’s 8%.  But our average agriculture growth rate over the last 9 years has been a disappointing 1.4%, compared to industry’s 6.6%.”

   Ordonez said agriculture has always been a low priority in previous SONAs.

   “During this critical pandemic time, agriculture must now be given its proper priority.  We hope President Rodrigo Duterte’s 2020 SONA will reverse this downward trend.”

   AFA is composed of five coalitions: Alyansa Agrikultura (AA) representing farmers and fisherfolk; PCAFI; Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP) representing science and academe; Pambansang Kilusan ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK) representing rural women; and Agri Fisheries 2025 (AF2025) representing multi sectors.

   AFA President Arsenio Tanchuling said that though construction and agriculture have been identified as the most important sectors to address during this pandemic.  But agriculture gets a very small percentage of resources as compared to construction.

   CAMP Chairman Emil Javier decries the 28-year delay in the release of the coco levy funds.    

    PKKK president Luz Bador said,  “Specially during this crisis, rural women’s role should be appropriately recognized.  They should get as much access as men to livelihood and support services.”

   PCAFI lamented that DA does not solve rampant smuggling, either technical, undervaluation or misdeclaration, of agricultural products imported from other countries like frozen chicken parts, pork, rice and even corn, cannot be stopped.

    “DA’s solution is to appeal to businessmen-importers not to commit smuggling rather than undertake concrete and immediate measures to catch these smugglers with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies and penalize them with the full force of the law,” said Fausto.

   PCAFI said  the worst impact of COVID 19 crisis will be on farmers who were recorded as of 2018 to be in the highest subsistence level.

   Farmers consist 11.5% of the Philippine population.  Those in the highest subsistence incidence also include fishers, 8.3% and individuals residing in rural areas, 8%.

    The already food-poor people as of 2018 totals to 4.1 million rural residents, 3.2 million children, and 2.7 million women.

   PCAFI noted that the nominal wage rate in agriculture was P276.03 per day as of 2018. But adjusted for purchasing power due to inflation, this is equivalent to a real wage of just P191.69 per day. End

   “Agriculture constitutes the foundation and basis for food and nutrition security and provide raw materials for industrialization. These are important factors that allow progress to take place in a society.” Melody Mendoza Aguiba

‘Knowledge economy’ pushed; harness ‘intellectual’ capital to boost food security, economic recovery from COVID 19

July 19, 2020

The government was urged to tap “intellectual capital” of Higher Education Institutions (HEI) to boost food security and economic recovery by fostering a “knowledge economy” amid the COVID 19 crisis.

   An eight-point recommendation has been pushed by experts at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) who believe developed countries have put up incentives for a “knowledge economy” (KE). 

   This is to meet their people’s needs.  KE accelerates economic growth objectives.

   Top 10 countries in 2008 that have high knowledge economic index (KEI) based on a criteria of the World Bank Institute are Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Canada, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States, and Australia. Philippines ranked 79.

   KEI measures the conduciveness of an environment to use knowledge for economic development.

   It maximizes use of human capital to enrich productivity and aid in food production and manufacturing and services industries.

   “A country like the Philippines needs an adequate cadre of researchers who appreciate the need to shorten the gap between research productivity and its translation to economic development,” according to “Food Security Amid the COVID 19 Pandemic” (FSACP).”

    “Various modalities of Academe-Industry-Government interconnectivity models need to be explored.” 

   The FSACP recommendations are being pushed by Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA director, and Rico C. Ancog who is also with the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB).

  Their recommendation is for HEI’s human capital to contribute to the development of the following priority areas relevant to four pillars of food security:

  1. Food availability— (incomplete list) commercial and industrial farming, organic farming, Big Data system, remote sensing, and artificial intelligence; urban agriculture; integrated pest management; pest and disease control, nutrient-enrichment of food; biotechnology (genetically modified food production); 
  2. Access to food —Transport and logistics (to bring food from producer to consumers), use of online and internet based solution, automated weather stations (predicting weather for more stable food production);
  3. Stability of food supply—financial technologies; agricultural policies and regulations (e.g. a ban on GM food restrains food security); and GM food labelling
  4. Utilization of food for nutrition, health and safety—transboundary food quality standards, trade regulation and standards; responsible consumption, food quality and safety, and food technology for health and wellness; bioefficacy and bioavailableit of novel products, and pesticide use and regulations.
Key priority areas for “Knowledge Economy” enhancement in agriculture

   To foster this advanced KE economic phase, incentives must be given so that the intellectual capital in HEIs (faculty, researchers) can generate commercialization tools that will meet Filipinos’ imminent needs–food security, in particular, amid the pandemic.

   Many agencies considered HEIs are also administered by the government –State Universities and Colleges (SUC). These institutions offer not only college courses but master’s and Ph.D. As part of the academic activities, considered output in HEIs are researches.

   Now, such researches must not be done just for academic exercise.  But these should reach out to the needs of society— produce food, solve hunger and malnutrition, help farmers develop into profitable entrepreneurs.  

   While agriculture HEIs in the Philippines have long been established, these institutions need to partner with the government that provides policies and funding for initiatives in technologies. 

   And their partnership should be with the private sector which has know-how in sustaining economic activities through business and commercial tools.

    Agricultural researches should have a “reorientation as seen from business perspective

 to afford systemic change of the agriculture sector,” said Gregorio and Ancog.

   These are among their eight-point recommendations under an Academe-Industry-Government (AIG) collaborative setup:

  1. Provide incentives so HEIs’ human capital will stimulate generation of more revenue-producing economic activities.  The incentives are to be given based on “profit” and four other P’s – people, partnerships, patents, and product.
  2. Re-orient HEIs’ human capital so that they will generate tools in commercialization used in businesses. These are  patents in technology (for instance, food and medicine products) and other intellectual property assets (utility model, trademarks—for instance, consumer health, cosmetics, and nutrition products). 

   HEI human capital’s  reorientation must also include expertise on technology transfer systems (business models) and technology business incubation (starting new businesses). 

   These incentives empower them to partner with venture capitalists, financiers, investors and investment houses that offer IPOs or initial public offerings, and startups/entrepreneurs so their technology will be sold to consumers or end users.

  • Provide HEIs’ human capital with all they need – grants, financial assistance, conducive policies for them to legally partner  with private companies, the industry, and all enterprise stakeholders.

   These partnerships should enable them to tap the entire “supply chain” – from production of goods and services, packaging, storage, distribution, logistics, marketing, and retailing to end consumers.

  • Provide HEI human capital all they need to produce innovative and technologically advanced goods and services.  Such production of innovative goods usually come from teams and partnerships of multi-discipline experts.  Such partnerships should be encouraged.

   “(We should) provide the enabling environment for faculty members and researchers to be encouraged in mutual-learning and co-learning through the establishment of multi-and interdisciplinary research laboratories, centers, and institutes,” said Gregorio and Ancog.

   KEI of the World Bank Institute is based on 4 pillars:

  1. a regime that provides incentives for the use of knowledge and in enhancing entrepreneurship;
  2. an educated/skilled population that uses knowledge;
  3. an innovation system of “firms, research centers, universities, consultants that tap a stock of knowledge to meet people’s needs and create technology;” and
  4. use of information and communication technology to share and process information.

   KE, also called “post-industrial economy” and related to “information” and “digital” economy, is a migration from the agrarian age and manufacturing (industrial) and service phases of economic development. It taps not just the basic factors of production—labor, capital, land—but largely human intellectual capital.

  These are Gregorio-Ancog’s other suggested initiatives that should be under the Academe-Industry-Government collaborative projects:

  1. Resource sharing both in  human and financial capital to facilitate strengthened linkage between basic and applied researches with the industry needs.
  2. Designing and implementing digital agriculture infrastructure and open-systems innovation systems across the agricultural supply chains.

   “For universities and research organizations managing scientific journals, investment towards real-time online publications or advanced online publication is a must to be relevant in this time where researchers need to publish their research results as early as possible and make it readily accessible to all.”

   KE evolved from the tenets of economists particularly Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter who believe that competitive advantage lies in continual innovation arising from technical knowledge.  Usually referred to here are knowledge in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) and relevant multi-disciplines practiced by biotechnologists, chemists, biologists, among others. 

   Models of knowledge economies prevail in “Silicon Valley in California; aerospace and automotive engineering in Munich, Germany; Biotechnology in Hyderabad, India; electronics and digital media in Seoul, South Korea; and petrochemical and energy industry in Brazil,” according to Sanna Ojanpera and co-authors of the “Engagement in the Knowledge Economy: Regional Patterns of Content Creation with a Focus on Sub-Saharan Africa.”

   “The need to ensure that research efforts would have significant societal impacts is a philosophy that must be widely upheld. Various modalities of Academe-Industry-Government interconnectivity models need to be explored so it can be customized to their specific needs,” said Gregorio and Ancog. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Import displaced Filipino farmers’ potential broiler sales of whopping P37B, P14.086B feed, and P3.38B jobs loss

July 16, 2020

The Philippine government’s strong import policy has displaced Filipino farmers’ potential broiler sales of a whopping P37 billion for eight years, P14.086 billion in broiler feed, P15.18 billion in “ihaw ihaw” sales, P4.2 billion in logistics, P8 billion in dressing plant operations, and P3.38 billion in jobs loss.

   In an open letter desperate for public support, the United Broilers and Raisers Association (UBRA) and the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) said they have been compelled to present evidence-based quantifiable data amid recent Department of Agriculture (DA) response to its pleadings against imports.

   “We are saddened that on May 28, 2020, the DA through the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), the agency responsible for our sector, seems to be complacent about our industry’s plight.  In a meeting with PCAF, they said that the volume of imports is smaller than the volume of production,” said Lawyer Jose M. Elias Inciong, UBRA president. 

   Also signatories to the letter are PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto and a growing number of nearly 50 other private agriculture association leaders.  PCAF stands for Philippine Council of Agriculture and Fisheries, a public-private group hosted by DA.

   “The message being sent is that we do not have a problem.  The stakeholders believe the opposite is true.”

   Sacrificed jobs are huge as “imported meats come as finished products, so it skips the local production chain which generates a lot of businesses and labor.”

   These are the import volume in chicken meat and broiler equivalent:  45.77 million kilos, 2008; 67.26 million kilos, 2009; 101.96 million kilos, 2010; 234.74 million kilos, 2016; 244.104 million, 2017; 288.2 million kilos, 2018; 338.12 million kilos, 2019; and 144.78 million kilos, 2020 (January to April).

   Lost sales from broiler production is broken down into P21.78 billion, feed sales; P7.8 billion, day old chick; P2.88 billion, dressing plant at P10 per head; P2.034 billion, veterinary products; P1.58 billion, salaries;  P612.6 million electricity; P308 million, LPG (brooding).

   Here are feed components of lost domestic sales from broiler operation:  P7.139 billion, corn: P4.284 billion, soya; P1.2 billion, feed additives; P813.76 million, coconut oil; P327.68 million, rice bran; P200 million, feed bags; P94.79 million, molasses; and P16 million, trucking.

   Lost domestic sales for corn, P7.139 billion affecting 106,661 Filipino families.  Reduced number of hectares of corn land is equivalent to 138,659.

   Other authorities, mainly DA officials themselves, continue to question UBRA’s claim on the significance of import volume in order to obliterate the Filipino poultry sector.

   “But even if you divide the total by half, the remaining amount is substantial enough to weaken the industry—along with the thousands of families depending on it especially during these times that we are facing the greatest problem our generation has to face.”

   Lost income from sales of ihaw ihaw stalls is accounted for by isaw, P5.75 billion; chicken feet or adidas, P2.88 billion; head and neck, P4.31 billion; and betamax or dugo, P2.88 billion.

   Reduced dressing operations of 287.61 million heads totaled to a loss of P2.88 billion and by product, P5.18 billion.

   Logistics revenue lost consists of hauling, P2.847 billion; delivery, P806.74 million; egg vans to hatchery, P302.75 million; and chick vans, P71.9 million.       

   Jobs lost represents broiler flock size of 302.742 million affecting 50,458 flockman and 12,109 supervisors with salaries of P1.447 billion for fllockman and P1.583 billion for supervisor.

  Another UBRA-PCAFI petition as sanctioned by Republic Act 8435 or the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) is a data system that will enable stakeholders to make informed decisions. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Virtual rice & corn field tours ushers in Ph agriculture digitalization accelerated by COVID 19 crisis

July 15, 2020

An innovative nationwide simultaneous virtual field tour was introduced by Bayer Crop Science (BCS) to current and emerging farm entrepreneurs as part of the digitalization trend in agriculture long advocated by agri stakeholders and now accelerated by the COVID19 crisis.

Featured in the Facebook page of BCS and called Online Kapehan, the field tour brought farmers on a journey to different locations across the country from their smart phones and computers—spanning from Isabela all the way to Zamboanga del Sur. The sites included Alicia & Angadanan, Isabela; Talavera, Nueva Ecija; Naujan, Oriental Mindoro; Trento, Agusan del Sur, and Tambulig, Zamboanga del Sur.

On its first wide-reaching virtual field event, Bayer featured its newly developed pre-emergent herbicide Council Complete, a revolutionary herbicide that has shown in trials to be highly effective in weed control while being safe to rice, applied during the early stages of the crop.

The digitalization of agriculture has been envisioned by experts in the belief that it will be the key to scaling production in order to meet the increasing demand for food for the projected more than 9 billion population by 2050.

Virtual field tour in Tambulig, Zamboanga del Sur (lower left) and Alicia, Isabela (lower right) brings farmers to rice fields that test new herbicide Council Complete

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates food production should increase by 70% in order to ensure food security particularly for the growing Asian population. This propels the need for novel crop protection and rice production techniques.

Farmer-cooperators in the field trials affirmed the efficacy of the new herbicide in controlling highly-pestering weeds including the known resistant ones, consequently averting loss for farmers and ensuring good harvest. Emman Serame in Nueva Ecija said Council Complete enabled growth of rice plants without having to compete in nutrients with weeds and made the rice fields “completely clean.”

Council Complete is recommended to be used on rice plants 2 to 4 days after transplanting or at 0 to 1 leaf stage of the plant. It should be used with the fields irrigated with water at 3 to 5 centimetre level in order to best control weeds. Even when flooding occurs, farmers should not worry that the herbicide’s effectivity may lessen for as long water level does not overflow the paddy field.

“Council Complete gives the rice plant the headstart it needs to grow without competition in nutrition with space or with weeds and other plants,” said Allan Velilla, BCS head of its Southeast Asia Agronomic Technological Center in Calauan, Laguna. “It has gone through long-term studies and its ingredients have been selected from the best compounds. With a new mode of action and better efficacy, the product is safe for rice plants and effective in selecting only targeted weeds.”

It is even suitable for farmers now to use it as they do not need to go back to the fields repeatedly to spray amid present government prohibitions for unnecessary outdoor stay due to the COVID19 pandemic. Farmers only spray once, and they should no longer worry that weeds will infest their fields. As a broad-spectrum herbicide, it prevents the growth of many grasses–Palay Palay, Tres Cantos, Balbas Kalabaw, Ulang, Kahoy Kahoy, according to a farmer in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro.

In Andanganan, Isabela, farmer Danny Taguba said, “It killed all the pest grasses—Walis Walis, Tres Cantos, Malapalay.” The herbicide has also been known to kill other weeds – Lopo Lopo and Lato Lato in Tambulig, Zamboanga del Sur. Taguba said an advantage with the new herbicide is it may be used together with snail control spray Bayluscide.

 “You save on labor because you only have to spray once. Council Complete and the snail control product may be mixed and sprayed together,” he said.

Ruben dela Cruz, farmer in Tambulig, Zamboanga del Sur, said he found the herbicide excellent as weed control. “I am impressed with the performance of Council Complete. Some leaves of rice plants in usual farmers’ practice become droopy when sprayed with other herbicides. But Council Complete doesn’t have a bad effect on the rice plant.  The leaf is erect,” said dela Cruz.

Council Complete has two active ingredients—triafamone and tefuryltrione– selected as the best from numerous studies. It can control a variety of grasses, sedges and broadleaves including echinocloa crus-galli, echinocloa colona, ludwigia octovalvis, sphenoclea zeylanica, cyerpus iria, cyperus difformis and fimbristylis milliacaea.

Council Complete is recommended for lowland rice planting and is registered with the Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA) for rice only. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Lack of P2.8 trillion stimulus package worsens GDP projected at negative 4-6% growth for 2020, worsening plight of 4.1 million rural folks

July 13, 2020

The private sector lamented government’s lack of fund to finance a P2.8 trillion proposed stimulus package that worsens COVID 19 crisis’s economic impact, sending yearend GDP to a negative growth of 4-6%, further adversely affecting 4.1 million food-poor rural people.

   After having hit a negative 0.2% GDP (gross domestic product) in the first quarter, the economy is projected to further decline by a negative GDP growth of 8-10% in the second quarter, 4-6% in the third quarter, and 2-4% in the fourth quarter – putting the economy into a state of recession

   “My rough estimate is we will have a negative 4-6% percent GDP growth for the whole year of 2020. Assuming a negative 5% growth due to COVID 19 plus the 7% lost (original GDP growth projection without COVID 19), we will have lost 12% less in GDP,” said PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto in a webinar hosted by the Procurement and Supply Institute of Asia (PASIA).

   Such GDP loss is equivalent to P2 to P2.2 trillion  based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA)  $356.8 billion  GDP as of 2019 at P50 to P51 to a dollar conversion, said Fausto, an economist and entrepreneurial founder of DVF Dairy Inc.

   Unfortunately, the worst impact will be on those recorded even as of 2018 to be of the highest subsistence level –farmers consisting of 11.5% of the Philippine population.  Those in the highest subsistence incidence also include fishers, 8.3% and individuals residing in rural areas, 8%.

    The already food-poor people as of 2018 totals to 4.1 million rural residents, 3.2 million children and 2.7 million women.

   PCAFI noted that the nominal wage rate in agriculture was P276.03 per day as of 2018. But adjusted for purchasing power due to inflation, this is equivalent to a real wage of just P191.69 per day.

   In response to COVID 19’s economic impact, Congress proposed a P2.8 trillion stimulus package consisting of the P1.3 trillion Accelerated Recovery and Investment Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines (ARISE) and P1.5 trillion for Economic Reduction and Economic Stimulus (CURES).

   “Apparently, this cannot be funded since economic managers can only allow a maximum of 9% on the deficit this year, and the current deficit of P1.613 trillion is already equivalent to 8.4% of GDP,” said Fausto.

Fishery wastage observed at fish ports of Bulan in Sorsogon, Masbate Pass, Masbate Bay, Ticao Pass, Burias Pass, and Sibuyan Sea due to COVID 19 lockdown

   Nevertheless, PCAFI looks forward to sustained positive impact of some reforms in agriculture implemented particularly the easing of credit access for small farmers by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP). 

   This easier credit access enabled LBP to raise agriculture lending  to P236.31 billion in 2019 compared to only P183.4 million in 2017.

    Fausto noted LBP’s reforms including simplification of loan application form to one document from 3 documents that are now easier to be filled up through tick boxes. 

   LBP also cut requirements to only the filing of loan application form and barangay clearance.  It shortened loan processing from 10 days to 1 day.  It has expanded loan workforce, recruiting more than 1,000 credit specialists deployed throughout towns to directly help farmers.  

   Still, many banks failed to comply with the Agri-Agra law that mandates banks to allocate 15% of loan portfolio to agriculture and 10% for agrarian reform-related projects.

   This deprives the agriculture sector of P734  billion in mandated accessible loan.

   Even government’s guarantee program is very limited, making the figure a minuscule 5% compared to the P180 billion guarantee for the real estate sector under the Home Guarantee Corp.  

   Here are concerns in agriculture that should be addressed in order to raise production and uplift livelihood levels of farmers:

  1.   Address farm size fragmentation by managing small farms into larger operating units to overcome liability of “smallness” from land preparation to sourcing of inputs, product processing and transport, and marketing.
  2. Achieve economies of scale through strengthening of farmers’ associations and irrigators’ associations, expanding contract growing, and raising success of agrarian reform.

“With contract growing, the corporate integrator programs the production schedule, be assured of his raw materials, and the farmer gets to sell all the produce he was contracted for at a fair market price,” Fausto said.

  • Address lack of productivity by enhancing linkages of primary producers to markets that will solve these problems.

“Supermarkets, fast food outlets, and convenience stores are taking business away from the traditional wet markets, carinderias, and sari sari stores,” said Fausto. 

   These similar problems should be resolved– seasonality of farm produce (the bulk comes to the market at the same time, sending price to collapse); lack of prior marketing arrangements between farmers and buyers; lack of agronomic practices (for flowering, harvesting) to make harvest year-round; and poor schedule of seeding, fertilization and irrigation in order to meet market timing needs.

   Fisheries sector also faces huge development deficiencies.

   “We have 220 million hectares of territorial waters including our exclusive economic zone (EEZ), 750,000 hectares of inland waters (lakes, rivers, reservoirs), and a coastline of 17,460 kilometers,” said Fausto.

  The Department of Agriculture (DA) proposed a P280 billion budget for 2021, a 333% jump from the P64.7 billion in 2020.

   It includes budget for Plant Plant Plant, rice  buffering by the National Food Authority, upscaling of Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita, distribution of seeds and fertilizer, enhancing livestock and poultry subsectors and of small ruminant, increased white corn production for snack and supplemental food, expansion of coconut  production, coconut replanting, development of fisheries ( aquaponics, aquaculture, fish cages), and urban farming and gulayan in schools and barangay.

   I also includes a cash for work program and  P20 billion for  food logistics and food market even as supply and logistics disruption occurred due to the COVID 19 crisis and lockdown.

   However, even the proposed budget appears to be just a “wish list.”

   The agriculture sector has  been plagued by food movement and transportation problems resulting in huge losses from throwing away of rotting vegetables from Benguet and other provinces and of wasted fish production from fish ports of Bulan in Sorsogon, Masbate Pass, Masbate Bay, Ticao Pass, Burias Pass, and Sibuyan Sea.

   The logistics problem has even been worsened by inability to transport animal and meat products from Visayas and Mindanao to Luzon due to the African swine fever (ASF) quarantine restrictions. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

First border inspection customs facilities to be put up by DA in Ph’s 5 major international ports to control diseases from meat imports

July 4, 2020

Facilities for the First Border Inspection (FBI) in the five major international ports will be put up this year by the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) to bolster inspection control on infected meat imports and on critical laboratory test kits and disinfectants.

   Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William D. Dar has committed to construct the FBI customs facilities in 5 international ports in response to such private sector recommendations. 

   The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Fisheries Inc. (PCAFI) and United Broilers Association (UBRA) complained against Philippines’ infection of African swine flu (ASF) and avian flu due to infected, poorly inspected meat imports.

       PCAFI and UBRA complained that more diseases and more mis-declared meat importation will happen with the FBI customs facilities. This is also depriving government of huge revenue from meat importation taxes along with destroying the entire livestock and poultry industries with diseases.

   In order to further boost animal production – cattle, carabao—without needing to import animals, DA will distribute semen straws under the Unified National Artificial Insemination Program, Dar said in a letter to PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.

   DA and the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) also plan to invest in biosecurity measures to more adequately provide for Cold Storage Warehouses. It will keep poultry and livestock products’ quality for a long time.

   “Investment in biosecurity is a necessity and may be part of the new normal,” said Dar in the letter.

   Dar said DA is also asking linking farmers and farm producers with buyers including big manufacturers that need farm raw material inputs. The link is also with  local government units (LGUs).

    “The secretary has always been vocal encouraging our meat processors to source raw meat from local producers especially in this time of crisis where imports are restricted.  He also asked LGUs to consider buying chicken and eggs directly to the poultry raisers and include these in food subsidy packs for distribution.”  

   DA has  asked Cebu to lift ban on transport of hogs and pork products so as to allow more buying of farmers’ goods.  Southern Leyte has already lifted a similar ban on transport of pork and related products from General Santos City and South Cotabato.

   Transport of pork and meat products from Visayas and Mindanao to bigger markets in Luzon is  under way to help stabilize supply and prices in Metro Manila.

   “The Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita is the main platform to address market and logistical support.  It is not just in NCR (National Capital Region), but in other regions.  Aside from different marketing modalities, it includes rentals of delivery trucks and cold storages, and use of the Food Terminal Inc as depot.”

   While no specific timelines have been indicated for their implementation, some of which have been plans of DA and its attached agencies for many decades,  here are the other commitments of Dar in response to PCAFI’s reform recommendations:

  • Implementation of the Fisheries Resiliency Project including 1. Urban aquaponics; 2. enhanced aquaculture and sustainable capture fisheries in inland waters; and 3. fish production support program for the rehabilitation of disrupted fish supply chain.
  • Provision of the National Dairy Administration (NDA) for insurance coverage of dairy animals during calamities and disease outbreaks, and a stimulus budget or capital for the production of Total Mix Ration (TMR). 
  • The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) is also expanding its dairy business.  The private sector, though, believes this is not the business of government.  PCC will provide assistance in consolidation and marketing of milk production to farmers..  It will encourage local milk companies to buy local produce as input to their processing of high value milk products (powdered, canned).
  • Bureau of Plant Industry will distribute seeds and planting materials and will implement border control and quarantine measures to also prevent entry of imported plant diseases and pests.
  • White corn will be produced to raise food security and input supply for feeds for livestock and poultry.
  • Engagement in feasibility studies on use of copra as ingredient in animal feed to enrich protein content.  It is under a program of Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) and National Livestock Program. PCA will also produce feed grade copra and coconut oil in Coconut Hubs.  Equipment will be provided to beneficiaries.
  • Palm oil production will be integrated with animal production as a response to Covid 19 crisis.  The NLP and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources are also studying the use of fish oil and fish meal in animal feeds.
  • P400 million “Balik PRobinsya” that will allow urban transferees to engage in integrated farming (entrepreneurial agri-fisheries).
  • Increase on premium to  P20,000 by the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp (PCIC) to cover cost of agricultural damages of farmers during typhoons and related calamities and important, pests and diseases infestation. DA only “partially” covers cost of production inputs now for palay production.  

“PCIC’s rice insurance will be provided free to rice farmers listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).” Insurance coverage is P20,00 per hectare for a maximum of 3 hectares per farmer.

  • P400 million will be proposed under the Expanded Production for High Value Crops (vegetable, spices, fruits, and root crops). Urban agriculture will be promoted to further boost food security and nutritional security via vegetable production.  This is also in response to the Covid 19 crisis.
  • Pump irrigation systems such as those from open source, shallow tube wells, and engine sets will be put up to deliver fast irrigation systems.  Fertilizers will also be distributed.
  • The Agricultural Guarantee Fund Pool (AGFP) will be strengthened to mitigate risks in agricultural lending. This function as transferred to the Philippine Export Import Credit Agency’s (Philexim) implementation with the expectation of higher efficiency guarantee program.
  • Strengthening of the Agri 4Ps (Plant Plant Plant Program). Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Second generation antihistamines now mainstay in treating allergies not only due to fast action but non-sedative effect critical in labor productivity

July 2, 2020

Second generation antihistamines have become the mainstay in treating allergies not only due to their fast action but for their non-sedative effect critical in the labor productivity of working people.

   Developed in the 1980s to counter the effect of antihistamines that cause sleepiness, second generation antihistamines have become a major advancement in allergy treatment.   

   This, even with the advantage that it is also a treatment for children, according to Dr. Natividad A. Almazan, in an inaugural webinar “Live with Clarity.” Almazan  is head of the Research and Development Office at the Manila Central University College of Medicine & Hospital and a fellow of the Philippine Society of Otolaryngology.

   The webinar aims to  address the high prevalence of allergies, particularly allergic rhinitis, which affects 1 in 5 Filipinos and around 400 million worldwide, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

   The advantage of anti-allergies not causing one to fall asleep is of primary significance as first generation antihistamines cause much impairment in one’s ability to perform daily tasks.

   “The residual effects of poor sleep, including impairment of attention, vigilance, working memory, and sensory motor performance, are still present in the next morning.  This is especially problematical with drugs with a long half-life,” according to Martin Church and Diana Church in the “Pharmacology of Anthistamines.”

   “The detrimental central nervous system (CNS) effects of first-generation H1-antihistamines on learning and examination performance in children and on impairment of the ability of adults to work, drive and fly aircraft have been reviewed in detail.”  

   Second generation antihistamines are now also a treatment for children.  They have to be more strictly monitored, though, than adults, as expected.

   “Both may take the same meds,  but the dosage is  different.  And  children should be monitored more,” said Almazan.  She said children are 47% likely to have allergic rhinitis when both parents suffer from the allergy.

   Allergic rhinitis is common, affecting all age groups, between 10-30% of adults and up to 40% in children & adolescents.  This prevalence is higher than skin allergies and asthma.

   Patients may experience mild to moderately severe symptoms such as runny nose, nasal obstruction, sneezing, and itchiness that makes it very bothersome.

   However, allergic rhinitis can be aggravated by co-morbidities such as asthma, atopic dermatitis, conjunctivitis, sinusitis, polyposis, upper respiratory tract infection, and otitis media, which may render a person unable to conduct daily life normally. As a consequence, this may lead to poor quality of life, sleep disorders, and learning and attention impairment.

   The “Live With Clarity” webinar series also provides awareness on common allergens that trigger allergic rhinitis and how to reduce the risk of exposure from them. Pollens are among the ubiquitous allergens with their presence in grasses and flowers, while dust mites are another common type found at home.

   Environmental pollution caused by vehicles running on fossil fuels emit carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and sulfur dioxide that increase the level of toxins in the air.

   Pet animals like dogs or cats may be a trigger for some. Types of seafood, spicy food, cosmetics, and topical products could also cause allergy. Family history also contributes to chances of people getting allergic rhinitis.

   How can you tell if you have allergic rhinitis or something else?

   According to Dr. Almazan, only specialists can properly diagnose whether a patient is suffering from allergic rhinitis or not. This is typically done by conducting a standard skin prick test done on the patient’s arm. Sterile needles are used to introduce suspected allergens and then the doctor evaluates the skin reaction after 15-30 minutes.

   Dr. Almazan stressed that the first step to the treatment of allergic rhinitis is avoidance of triggers.

   Also, as a habit, people prone to allergic rhinitis should observe general sanitation—ensuring regular house cleaning and changing of beddings and draperies to prevent dust mites from accumulating. Often, the cause of asthma is the same as that of allergic rhinitis.

   For a long time, patients who take oral antihistamines to manage allergic rhinitis feel drowsy or groggy after a short period due to the sedative effects of this medication, which is a common side effect from first or older generation antihistamines.

   In most cases, whether intermittent or persistent allergic rhinitis, the main stay treatment is second-generation oral antihistamines. These are considered as non-sedating medication that can be taken in the morning and will not cause drowsiness for an average person who starts the day heading to work.

   “Based on a survey on preference for treatment of allergic rhinitis, people prefer the medication targets the symptoms that accompany the condition, has fast action relief, minimal adverse effects, non-habit forming, and long lasting,” says Dr. Almazan. Claritin is a second-generation antihistamine that meets the criteria on what medication is preferred by patients.

   Depending on the severity of the allergy, the doctor may prescribe other medications like intranasal corticosteroids (INCS), leukotriene receptor antagonist, decongestants, and immunotherapy.

   Dr. Almazan stressed though that all this information should not replace consultation with doctors.

   “These medications and treatment approaches have to be monitored, so you have to consult with your doctor and avoid self-diagnosis.”

   The “Live With Clarity” series will continue with sessions to focus on allergies in the elderly on July 3 and children & adolescents on July 13. Those interested can check out their schedules at Claritin Philippines’ Facebook page at (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)