Private sector pressed government to plow in investments into agriculture as private enterprises put in 95% of investments

December 6, 2021

The private sector has pressed government to plow in investments into agriculture sector that drives economic development even as private enterprises pour in the bulk of 95% of investments in agriculture while government only contributes 5% to farm output.

   The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) has asked presidential candidates, given their election, to put agriculture sector as a priority investment venue given its significant contribution to the economy.

    That along with its potential to be a springboard for agro-industrial development as agriculture is the natural resource origin of food and beverage and many manufacturing industries.

   PCAFI just held Monday its “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” with presidential aspirant Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. as as a way to engage potential future leaders to adopt PCAFI’s 12-point recommendation.

   “The private sector contributes 95% of the investment in the agriculture sector.  It should be provided with the right environment for people to invest in it. Government contribution to the total agricultural output is less than 5% yearly,” according to PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.

   Also proposing recommendations through the online forum are Alyansa Agrikultura Convenor Ernesto Ordonez and Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Leonardo Q. Montemayor.

   After long years of ignoring the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 (AFMA-Republic Act 8435), government should now implement it. 

   The AFMA-mandated Naitonal Information Data System (NIDS) should be put up to provide an accurate data on import, export, demand, supply, and prices of agricultural commodities. Such data is not provided by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

   Creation of the NIDS is critical so that excessive importation of agricultural goods that has been slowly killing the agriculture sector can only be resolved given accurate data.     

   ”Investors and food producers will have an informed business decisions (given this data),” said Fausto.

   Eighty Five percent of the country’s agricultural land is planted with just four crops–rice, corn, banana and coconut.

   Income from these crops traditionally planted on 1 to 2 hectares of land cannot adequately feed a family of five members.

   “Our small farmers can earn more by planting other crops (through intercropping) with greater value like vegetables, legumes, fruits and even ornamentals in rotation with rice and corn. Farm produce can be further processed into various products far more valuable than the raw form and create additional employment in the process,” he said.

    Importation has become the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) long prevailing system in ensuring food security, hurting many Filipino farmers.  Thus, PCAFI has asked for the implementation of laws to curb importation that only benefit importers and traders.  

   The Safeguard Measures Act (SMA– Section 13, RA 8800) indicated that “in reaching a positive determination that the increase in the importation of the (imported) product is causing serious injury or threat  directly to competitive (local) products,” an increase in duty on the imported product may be imposed.

   The SMA also provides that if importation poses threat on the local industry, a decrease in the quota (minimum access volume or MAV) on the product may be implemented.  MAV is an importation program that carries lower tariff rate.

   “The initiation of international negotiations to address the underlying cause of the increase of imports of the product, to alleviate the injury or threat thereof to the domestic industry (should be done),” according to the PCAFI position paper.

   RA 8751 is the law that sanctions imposition of countervailing duties on imported subsidized products “in order to protect domestic industries from unfair trade competition.”

   Whenever any product is “granted directly or indirectly by the government in the country of origin” any kind of subsidy upon its production, and importation of such product causes material injury to a domestic industry, countervailing duties must be imposed.

   Ra 8752 also provides that anti-dumping duty may be imposed whenever any imported product has a price less than its “normal value” and causes threat to a domestic industry.

   Dr. Emil Q. Javier, national scientist and chairman of the Coalition for Agricultural Modernization of the Philippines (CAMP) also filed with presidential candidates the following recommendations:

1. Farm consolidation to attain economies of scale

   Prospective solutions may be to a) promote farm leasing by small unproductive farmers to more progressive farmers or to corporations; b) promote contract farming as a business model between small growers and  integrators; c) support rural cooperatives, irrigators associations ( IAs), and agrarian beneficiaries organizations ( ARBOs). 

   The government may also consider raising limit to farm holdings under agrarian reform from 5 to 20 hectares.  It should consider creating a Bureau of Agro-industrial Cooperatives under the DA.

2. Promotion of value-adding and processing to increase farmer incomes , create more jobs and expand exports

   This will generate more margins derived from the processing, marketing and distribution stages of the  value chain.  Farmers directly involved mainly in farm production stage face risks that are highest  while margins are often the least.

3. More efforts to expand access of small farmers to timely and affordable credit.

   “The government should consider creating a Land Bank subsidiary exclusively dedicated to small farmer lending.  It should also improve operations and raise capital of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp.,” said Javier.

4. Creation of a separate Department of Fisheries and Marine Resources

   “Fisherfolk and coastal communities are the poorest among  Filipinos.  Fisheries and marine resources are severely underfunded and largely under-utilized.  Fisheries tend to be neglected and crowded out by crops and livestock in DA.”

5. Reform of rural extension

   “Agricultural extension should be the task of local government units (LGUs) to bring extension services closer to the people,” Javier said.

   This LGU function has weakened for lack of direction, manpower, operating funds and expertise in the poor third to the sixth class municipalities where most of agriculture production is located.

   Therefore, it is better to locate the locus of planning, coordination and extension delivery at the provincial level. A Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Service ( PAFES) should be created.

6. Promotion of multiple cropping to create more jobs, produce more food and raise farmer income

   It is imperative that a shift from monocropping to multiple cropping must be done for economic and environmental sustainability.

   “Intercropping, relay cropping feasible with most crops, have more control on amount and time of availability of irrigation water.  We need to invest more in small irrigation systems to supplement large irrigation systems.   The National Irrigation Administration must also be returned to the DA for proper coordination of irrigation development, management and maintenance,” said Javier.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Robredo successfully transformed Filipino farmers in Bicol into agri-entrepreneurs, now selling directly to Bigg’s Diner, LCC Supermarket

November 30, 2021

Vice President Leni Robredo has successfully transformed Filipino farmers in Bicol into “agri-entrepreneurs” through the “Umasenso sa Kabuhayan” that now sells directly to commercial establishments including Bigg’s Diner.

   During the forum “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Robredo said there are already nine municipalities in Bicol with farming communities that are directly selling to hotels, restaurants, groceries, and supermarkets.

   “Farmers’ transition from subsistence farming (into entrepreneurship) is gradual.  But if we can show them the benefits, it is possible,” said Robredo.

   PCAFI held the forum to orient presidential aspirants on the need of Filipino farmers and the fact that agriculture has been neglected in many years, according to PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.

   Among the needs are an increased budget of at least 10% of GDP which is but “fair” as agriculture contributes 10% to GDP and even up to 35% when agriculture processing industries are included.

   Farmers need to be aided to become businessmen as “agriculture should not be treated as a charity work but as a business,” Fausto said.

 Recommendations on agriculture were also presented during the forum by Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Leonardo Montemayor, Alyansa Agrikultura Convenor Ernie Ordonez, and Rice Watch Executive Director Hazel Tanchuling.

   This program with Bicol farmers started in 2018 when the Office of the Vice President (OVP) conducted a simultaneous survey.  The survey asked commercial establishments on the top 10 agricultural goods they need and the top 10 crops that farmers grow.  

   Both the commercial establishments and the farmers’ groups cited the top 10 agricultural crops they need or grow.

   The businessmen cited these crops as what they need, in order from the most important to the least– calamansi, ginger, chili pepper, lettuce, and cucumber.

   “We told the farmers, ‘Grow calamansi, and we will provide you with the financial grants and the seedlings,’” she said.

Vice President Leni Robredo and PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto

   Initially, the farmers were resistant since they were used to growing cash crops (such as vegetables harvested in three weeks) or a set of crops just to make them a complete set –such as pinakbet vegetables talong, ampalaya, and kalabasa. 

   These farmers were also basically rice farmers who are among Philippines’ poorest.

   But there were enterprising farmers who dared to grow what they were advised, while there were businessmen who were willing to commit to buying these produce upon the prodding of the OVP.   

   It was also OVP’s partnership with the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

   The first big buyer is the Bigg’s Diner in Naga.

   These businesses used to buy produce from Baguio or Sariaya, Quezon, instead of from Bicol farmers because of various reasons (more expensive, etc).

   “We found it hard at first.  But when daring farmers started becoming successful, the other farmers followed,” said Robredo.  “Now we already have a lot of contracts.  You just need to be focused on the program.”

   The success is also attributable to collaboration.  The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) assisted the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARB).  The Department of Agriculture (DA) assisted the non-ARBs.

   The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provided shared service facilities for selling the agricultural goods that cannot be bought by institutional buyers.   Now there are nine municipalities with shared service facility for this direct trading activity of farmers.

   If there is a need for value adding, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) comes in.

   “The OVP became a platform where everybody is on board—DA, DOST, DAR, DTI.  We are the ones that tell them this is what we need from you. Even the agencies are happy.  Now the farmers have a delivery truck.  And their earnings are far bigger than what they earned as mere rice farmers,” said the vice president.

   The farmers now also have an arrangement with LCC Supermarket, Bicol’s largest supermarket chain, to which the farmers commit to selling their produce.

   With the financial grant from government along with their higher income, farmers were able to buy greenhouses for their produce.  They were able to put up their drip irrigation facilities for efficient garden watering.

   The Umasenso sa Kabuhayan also has another successful agri-entrepreneurship program with the Sumilao Farmers in Bukidnon.  It is in partnership with Pilipinas Shell Founation.

   “They are our clients in Saligan (a non government organization of lawyers helping the poorest). Sumilao farmers won their case, and they’re very inspiring. Now they have become rich. Our program with Pilipinas Shell taught them to maximize resources. They just grew corn before, now they’re into livestock.”

   The OVP introduced these interventions to small farmers as Robredo observed that it is the traders that earn a lot from transactions on agricultural trade. 

   The farmers, who toil hard on the soil, just registered an income of an additional 6% throughout many years, Robredo said.  

   “If  agencies will not work on silos, programs will not be doubled, and gaps will be filled.  I tell farmers to just specialize on products (that are in demand).  Let us not insist on growing what is not needed.

   Specialization is achieved as one town takes on growing calamansi, another sili.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Philippines should boost agar seaweed production to further raise $200 M export– Isko Moreno

November 28, 2021

The Philippines should boost the production of export winner “agar agar” seaweed to create jobs and alternative rural livelihood while generating export reaching to $200 million yearly from Philippines’ fisheries-rich natural resource.

   Presidential Aspirant Francisco “Isko” Domagoso said during Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc’s  (PCAFI) “Agri 2022” that agar agar’s production should be raised considering Philippines’ rich coastal areas.

   “At a certain height in coastal areas, you can already plant agar agar. And agar agar is a very good way of alternative livelihood for our fisherfolks,” said Domagoso.

   Dr. Emil Q. Javier, national scientist and Coalition for Agriculture Modernization of the Philippines (CAMP), affirmed that the country’s experts are ready with the technology in seaweeds.  These experts are with the Marine Science Institute, Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center, and University of the Philippines-Visayas.

   With seaweed as one export product that Philippines earns from at around $200 million yearly, the country should further enhance its fisheries position by asserting its fishing right to the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

   “Our ambition  should be to be a truly maritime nation. Asserting our right at the West Philippine Sea should be done to be a truly maritime nation,” said Javier who is also PCAFI officer.   “We’re very rich in fisheries resources, but our fishermen are among the poorest.”

   The Philippines should indeed stand in asserting its WPS fishing right, whatever the size of its armed force is, being a sovereign nation.

   “We must co exist as a country.  We will insist on what we have and what we own.  Yes there are countries that are superpower trying to intimidate us.  But when we stand our ground, we are respected by (bigger) countries because we have our own disposition.  I made it clear to our fisherfolks that we will fish in the West Philippine Sea –undeterred unharmed and unbullied,” said Domagoso.

   It should be Philippines’ policy to impose penalties on foreigners who violate Philippine’s territorial rights.  

   “Once you enter into our geography, I don’t have to make war with you, when it’s illegal (one should be penalized).   Why do we imprison our fellow Filipinos when they do something illegal, but when it comes to foreigners, we just watch them,” Domagoso said. “We will guarantee that our navy, whether small or big, our coast guard, whether small or big, whatever capacity we have as a nation we will go there with our fishers because it’s ours.”

   In the first place, Philippines enters into international treaties.  And its defense should also be its allies’ defense.

Mayor Isko Moreno and National Scientist Emil Q. Javier

   “I don’t think the other side will push the button.  Nobody can afford it because we are a sovereign nation with allies. We’ve been signing agreements, treaties. It shouldn’t always be one way road. This is the time they should come (to our defense) because why will I sign treaties with you? Where were you when we need you most?”

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said that for Philippines to further specialize on fisheries since its territorial waters is bigger than the land, a Department of Fisheries should be created.

Seaweed farming. Credit– BAFPS

   Domagoso assured “we will separate our Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources from DA (Department of Agriculture).  You can’t be good on both land and water. There will be enough attention in land based (function) for food security (as well as in sea-based).”

   PCAFI has been orienting presidential candidates on the state of Philippine agriculture and has filed the following recommendations:

  1. Allocation of at least 10% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) budget for agriculture which is just “fair” considering its GDP contribution of 10%.  At present, the sector just gets 1.5% budget.  Livestock and poultry contributes 27.7% to agriculture while it only gets 5.6% of the budget.  Corn contributes 6.4%, but it only gets 1.7% of DA budget.
  2. Tariff collections should be used to develop the corresponding sector—Corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry tariff should be used to develop corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry sectors.
  3. The Safeguard Measures Act, Anti Dumping Act, among others, should protect local farmers from unfair competition from imports.
  4. National Irrigation Administration should be administered by DA for proper irrigation coordination.
  5. The Bureau of Agriculture Cooperatives should be created under DA
  6. Local government Units should allocate funds for agriculture extension as part of the proposed Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System (PAFES) to ensure farmers get direct assistance on technology.
  7. Convergence of DA, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Science and Technology to promote food and beverage manufacturing
  8. Establishment of agro-industrial hubs and corridors
  9. Passage of Land Use Bill to preserve agricultural lands
  10. Diversification of agriculture production to invest more in horticultural and industrial crops, poultry, livestock, fisheries
  11. Developing biotechnology, food science, automation, digitalization to enhance productivity and competitiveness
  12. Regreening, watershed management, and agro-forestry implementation. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Isko Moreno to implement laws ending excessive agri imports, to put forth “Filipino First” policy for food security

November 28, 2021

Presidential aspirant Mayor Francisco “Isko” Domagoso will “make sure” to implement laws such as the Safeguard Measures Act to curb excessive importation and put forth a “Filipino First” policy to ensure food security, consequently national security.

   In a series of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc’s  (PCAFI) “Halalan Para sa Agrikultura 2022” held Friday, Domagoso committed to abiding by international treaties the Philippines signed into.

   Yet, he said it is but reasonable to look after the welfare of Filipino farmers first.

   “We live in a new world in a competitive time,  We must also adhere to our relationships to the world.  But first things first.  Filipino first,” Domagoso said.

   “I agree with treaties.  I agree with contracts.  But my question is what is it for us?  Nobody can blame us if this will be our attitude as elected leaders, as government leaders in this issue of national security.”

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto stressed during the forum that Philippines has not at all implemented laws regulating unnecessary importation as sanctioned by the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA-Republic Act 8435 of 1997).

    This has caused flooding of imports, particularly pork recently.  This has brought losses of more than P100 billion to date, to the detriment of the local pork sector and its farmers.

   But the Safeguard Measures Act allows for the increase in duty of imported products in cases where this hurts the local industry and farmers.

   Likewise, the imposition of anti-dumping duties under RA 8752 makes sure unfair trade competition is stopped. 

   When government- subsidized goods abroad are dumped in the Philippines at very cheap price that render Filipino farmers’ produce uncompetitive, the duties may be imposed, Fausto said.

   Domagoso said such unfair competition for Filipino farmers should not happen again.

   “We’ll make sure there will be level playing field. I always tell businessmen that in Manila,   rules will be certain.  There is predictability,” he said.

   “It is good that we just have to implement those laws (on Safeguard Measures Act and Anti Dumping Act). When we implement, that applies to every John Doe and Mary.”

   As Fausto said the AFMA-mandated National Information Data System should be created to ensure there is data on import, export, demand, supply, Domagoso said this data system should be the basis if there is a need for importation.

   “Importation should only be when there is a delubyo (calamity).  Gone will be the days of hula hula (guessing the importation data),” he said.

   “Action should be based on facts, on quantifiable data. Or most likely it will be a shotgun approach. Nothing will be hit. If you have the data, then we will put actions. It may not be perfect, but results matter to me.”

   The clear threat of food security has not been observed as during the pandemic, Domagoso said.

   “The number one threat to national security is food security and it was made very clear to every John Doe and Mary in this pandemic – when Vietnam had an issue on (whether) to release their (rice) produce to the world in the middle of the pandemic.”

   Now is a high time for PHilippines to invest in agriculture, he said.

   “If our country, our leaders, not only the president, but legislative people, will not put our hearts into it, we’ll be subject into the situation of threat to food security five to 10 years from now.”

   Domagoso lamented that when he went to Tarlac lately, farmers complained having earned only P12 to P14 per kilo for their unhusked rice.

   “That means tabla talo.  If the cost of production is P12-14, then they not only lose money, they are also losing because of the work they put in. No wonder why our partners are aging, and technology and experience of our farmers are not being transferred to the next generation. I for one as parent will tell my children, ‘Don’t go to farming.  There’s no money there.’  Then we all lose,” he said.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Proposed Philippine Corn Development Authority should restore aid to corn farmers “orphaned” by rice tarrification

November 15, 2021

Corn farmers are banking on the creation of a proposed Philippine Corn Development Authority so as to restore aid to the “orphaned” sector since the ratification of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

   The corn sector used to have at least P1.6 billion Department of Agriculture (DA) budget, according to Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PMFI) President Roger V. Navarro during the “Halalan sa 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture & Food Inc. (PCAFI).

   However, the budget, mainly through the DA-attached National Food Administration’s (NFA), has been eliminated with the passage of RTL.  The abolition of the functions of NFA consequently abolished government’s buying program  of farmers’ corn harvest.

   “The budget for corn before was only P60 million. Then the budget increased last to P1.6 billion.   But the industry is worth P100 billion.  There is a very big gap.  Then the RTL was passed, the RTL even became rice-centric,” Navarro said during the PCAFI Forum.

   Audience during the PCAFI Forum is Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, vice presidential candidate.

   Pangilinan, also Senate Committee Chairman on Agriculture, said he will look into the possibility of first drafting an executive order creating the government corn agency.  

   The EO will be a temporary instrument until creation of the corn agency becomes official through a congressional legislation.

   “We will study it.  We can issue an EO to  convene the corn development board and provide funding for it while the bill is being debated,” he said.

   There are many issues confronting the corn industry which should be addressed by a higher authority such as a corn development agency.

   For one, the local corn sector cannot grow to its maximum capacity as it is only allowed to import.  But it is not allowed to export and take advantage of seasonal high price of corn in the world market.

   “Corn was the first commodity to be liberalized under the WTO (World Trade Organization).    But it was only importation that was liberalized for corn and corn substitutes.  The  government has never really agreed to allowing us to export. (Even worse), they have plans to  make corn to have zero tariff,” he said.

     A serious concern for the corn sector is post harvest facilities which the Philippines lack.

   “There are two croppings for corn.  The first cropping has the biggest production of 65% for the (crop year)).  That is from August September October.  But since it is rainy, and  we don’t have the post harvest facilities, there is so much loss.  The February to March harvest is just fine because it can be dried on the highway.  But we need to save the first season harvest,” said Navarro.

   Unfortunately, while the Department of Public Works and Highways has a huge budget of P700 billion for infrastructure, its projects do not really involve post harvest facilities for the corn industry.

   The same absence of post harvest facilities compels government to have a program for buying corn. This program for buying all farmers’ harvest for the first cropping is already a practice in Thailand.

   “In Thailand, the government sequesters all corn production, and so you will see warehouses saying ‘Property of the Government of Thailand,’” Navarro said.

   A corn agency is also important since the Philippines needs to attend to many needs in order to be self reliant.  For one, there is hardly a local corn seed growing industry as many seed growers are multinational companies, Navarro said.

   Also, farmers find it difficult to supply the needed fertilizers for their crops since fertilizers’ cost is very high.   Navarro cited that government-owned fertilizer companies including the Philippine Phosphate and Atlas Fertilizer are no longer operating.

   He cited that the cost of fertilizers urea, potash, and Triple 14 is now very expensive at around P2,000 per bag. Thus farmers find them prohibitive to use.

   Pangilinan committed to support the corn industry, recognizing its unique role in the livestock sector.

   “Corn plays a very important role in feeds.  And feeds play an important role in livestock.  So we should really look after the needs of the corn sector,” Pangilinan said.

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said earlier cited the significance of the feed industry which is comprised substantially by corn and corn substitutes.

   Fausto said that the government should allocate a budget of at least P112.5 billion for livestock and poultry. And yet, feed also represents a big cost of input for livestock and poultry.

   “The feed industry is a P510-billion industry. Assuming two-thirds (67 percent) of feeds go to livestock and poultry, that represents P340 billion,” he said.

   Assistance in post harvest facilities is what will significantly improve farmers’ lives.

   “We make our farmers become mendicant. We don’t bring them respect.  But we will put dignity to the people as we elevate our assistance in infrastructure,” said Navarro.

   With post harvest facilities, the corn sector will be stabilized.

   “We will have a stable price, stable supply of corn, and stable income for farmers,” Navarro said. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Govt urged to counter WTO provisions that caused flooding of 440 million kilos of pork to the detriment of Filipino farmers, local hog sector

November 12, 2021

The government should have a way to defend Filipino farmers’ rights against excessive imports from trade agreements even as 440 million kilos of imported pork have already flooded the local market to the detriment of the local hog sector.

   Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, vice presidential candidate, said in a virtual forum on “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” hosted by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) said the food importation regime  should stop.

   “We should only import when needed. Importation should be a last resort.  All countries have a way of standing up against (trade agreement pressures).  What’s been happening is we choose to go blinded just following mandates. There are grey areas in trade agreements we can hold on to in order to defend our farmers,” said Pangilinan.

   Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines (Propork) President Edwin Chen said it is unfortunate that despite pleas from the local hog sector for a cessation on importation, the government has ruled against the local hog sector’s request.

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto cited the Safeguard Measures Act should be invoked as section 13 provides for the protection of local farmers.  The law provides that importation should only happen in cases of extreme supply shortage.

   Propork also reiterated the sector’s petition for government to put up the first border inspection facility which should restrict the entry of infectious animals inflicted with the African swine flu, among others.

Pangilinan

   Chester Tan, president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc., said the Philippines should repopulate its hog sector in order for the country not to depend on imports.

   “But the DA (Department of Agriculture) is using the World Trade Organization (WTO) provision to import from different countries,” said Tan.  “Our advocacy is to repopulate so we won’t have to depend on imports.”

Pangilinan also committed to support the creation of the Philippine Corn Administration which will take care of the welfare of corn farmers.

   Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PMFI) President Roger V. Navarro said corn farmers have been orphaned after the passage of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

   National Food Authority (NFA) used to have a corn buying program.  But when RTL was ratified, the corn buying program was  abolished as RTL just focused on rice.  

   Navarro said government’s aid to corn farmers should be in the form of post harvest facilities. The absence of dryers and storage facilities cause many losses to farmers at harvest time when farmers are forced to sell their corn at low prices.

   The government budget for corn is only P60 million even if the corn sector is worth  P100 billion, said Navarro.

   Pangilinan said an executive order can already be issued in order to convene the Corn Development Board, a multi-sectoral group that used to meet to discuss development of the corn industry. 

   PCAFI also proposed the following measures for the development of the agriculture sector:

  1. Full representation and participation of the private sector in the granting of import permits, first border inspections, road map preparation and review,and other agriculture policies and programs for agricultural development.

2. Creation of the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic resources

3. Return of the authority and supervision of the National Irrigation

Administration (NIA) to the DA

4.  Creation of the Bureau of Agriculture Cooperatives and Associations under

DA

5. Mandating LGUs (local government units) to provide appropriate funds for the establishment of agriculture extension services and to support

agriculture production and value and supply chain.

6.  Diversification of agriculture production giving more attention and

investments in commodities other than rice, i.e. horticultural and industrial

crops, poultry and livestock and fisheries, re-directing food production to

farming systems and multiple cropping.

7.  Passage of the Land Use Bill to preserve agricultural lands.

8. Ensure and prioritize provisions for post-harvest facilities for fisheries and

aquaculture, livestock and poultry, rice, corn, coconut and high value

crops.

9.  Convergence of DA (Department of Agriculture), DTI (Department of Trade and Industry)  and DOST (Department of Science and Technology) initiatives to promote food and beverage manufacturing both for domestic needs and exports.

10. Establishment of agro-industrial hubs and corridors

11.. Harnessing advances in science to raise productivity and competitiveness,

e.g. modern biotechnology, food science, automation, digitalization, IT

technologies. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

P41 B feeding program of DepEd, other NGAs urged to be spent for buying farmers’ produce

November 10, 2021

The P41 billion combined feeding program budget of the Department of Education (DepED) and other government agencies should be spent buying Filipino farmers’production as mandated in the Sagip Saka Act, Senator Francis Pangilinan, vice presidential candidate said.

   During a virtual forum “Halalan 2022 Para sa AGrikultura” hosted by the Philippine Chamber of AGriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Pangilinan asserted it is time that government devotes itself supporting Filipino farmers.

   “Under the 2021 budget, the combined budgets of the DepEd, DSWD, DILG, DOH—not including local government units—for feeding programs or food related programs is P41 billion,” said Pangilinan. 

   That is many times bigger than the previous budget of NFA (National Food Authority) for buying farmers’ unmilled rice at P6 billion, he said.

   The Department of Social Welfare and Development’s budget for hot meals is P4.6 billion annually.

   “This should be spent directly for buying production of farmers and fishermen so that we will also get the best quality of farmers’ production.”

   This will shorten the supply chain—meaning middlemen’s cut will be eliminated while farmers can earn higher from the direct buying.

  Department of Health has many provincial hospitals and also has a feeding program.  The Department of Interior and Local Government maintains provincial jails that need buying agricultural products. 

   LGUs buy relief packs.

   “All of these should be bought directly from farmers and fishermen.  Sagip Saka provides for that.  There is no longer a need for public bidding.  Negotiated contracts and purchases will be the scheme for LGUs and national government agencies (NGAs).

   The government should continue to implement best practices in agriculture networking systems.

   For one,  before the pandemic, Jollibee and Nestlé participated in a successful experiment of buying the produce of onion and coffee farmers, making them their “big brother.

   “Kasama ang ating office at iba pang kumpanya, na ginawa ito para makatulong sa usapin ng cold-storage, transport at logistics, dagdag na kaalaman sa bookkeeping and the like,” said Pangilinan.

   The Kalasag Farmers Cooperative of San Jose City, Nueva Ecija as of 2008 only had 60 tons of onion harvest. With the marketing help, as of 2015, their onion production reached 500 tons

   Last year, almost P3 billion worth of agricultural goods was purchased by LGUs directly from farmers through his office’s network-marketing support, Pangilinan said.

   “Camarines Sur Multipurpose Cooperative, with 2,300 farmer-members, were able to sell rice to 13 LGUs in Camarines Sur in the middle of the pandemic. In 2019, the revenue of CamSur Multipurpose Cooperative from agricultural produce is P7 billion. But in 2020, with the purchase of the 13 LGUs, they earned P62 million.”

   This scheme brings higher income to farmers. For instance, the LGU of Arayat, Pampanga, Barangay San Juan, purchased directly from farmers. Instead of paying only P17 per kilo, they bought at P19 per kilo.

   In turn, milled rice price dropped to P38 to P37 per kilo because the LGU bought directly from farmers.

   :Sa halip na binili ng barangay sa palengke ng 44 or 45, nakatipid sya ng mga pitong piso kada isang kilo at dahil dito nakabigay pa, nakabili ng dagdag na tatlong kilo kada pamilya sa usapin ng lockdown dahil sa Sagip Saka Law.”  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Corn farmers asked to defer low tariff corn implementation, incurs P10 billion revenue loss from low corn price of P8-10 per kilo


October 13, 2021

Corn farmers have asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to defer implementation of lower tariff on corn imports as this will be a “death sentence” to farmers given the prevailing low price of corn, bringing revenue loss of P10 billion.
House Resolution 2289 has been filed by Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez with the pleadings of the Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (Philmaize) and the United Broilers and Raisers Association (UBRA).
The resolution was directed too as a petition to the National Economic Development Authority and the Tariff Commission.
“The abundance of production did not increase the income of farmers which shows the ‘incompetence of the DA in promoting and managing our own agricultural resources’,” according to the House Resolution.
Corn tariff is now low at 5% if importation is within the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA). It is slapped with a 35% duty within Minimum Access Volume (MAV) importation and 50% outside MAV.
DA just created a Technical Working Group to study lowering of corn import duties in order to bring down animal feeds and livestock and poultry prices.
Philmaize has debunked the assumption that feed prices will go down given lower corn price (consequently pulling down livestock and poultry price).
“Philmaize stated that these corn prices do not have direct and immediate correlation to the decrease of feeds and meat price. In the last two years, corn price plunged to P8-9 per kilo, but there was no reduction in the price of feed and meat.”
Rather, it is the huge importation of feed wheat and corn that caused the fall in local con price to its lowest level. This is based on a study of the Philippine Competition Commission, Philmaize cited.
Philmaize attributes the fall of local corn price to the “uncontrolled, unabated and uncalibrated large arrivals of feed wheat and imported corn during the wet season harvest. This displaced local corn harvest from getting into warehouses and silos of livestock and feed mill sector.”
Corn price plunged by a hefty 33% to P8-9 per kilo, far below the P13.25 per kilo support price established by the National Food Authority (NFA).
The economic loss at P10 billion in revenue experienced by farmers was exarcerbated by the Covid 19 pandemic.
Rodriguez said UBRA President Jose Elias Inciong also stressed that the price of poultry and livestock are “not dependent on the rate of corn tariffs but on the highly in-demand dynamics of the commodities.”
Moreover, even the Bayanihan sa Agrikultura admitted a low import duty on corn does not guarantee significant reduction in the price of livestock and poultry.
The resolution cited the Magna Carta for Small Farmers in invoking the low corn tariff, saying it is the state’s role to assure “equitable distribution of benefits and opportunities realized through empowerment of small farmers.”
“The state should recognize the need to keep our local farmers motivated, encourage them to continue planting, and keep their production stable by implementing a more strategic approach to balance enterprise resource planning,” according to the resolution. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Filipino-owned Frabelle Fishing Corp interested in putting up tuna canning plant in India

June 1, 2021

Filipino-owned global firm Frabelle Fishing Corp. (FFC) has expressed interest in putting up tuna canning facilities in India as an expansion of Filipino companies’ already existing overseas canning operations in Papua New Guinea,

   Speaking before the first virtual India Philippines Marine fisheries & Aquatic Business Conference (IPM-ABC), FFC President Francisco Tiu Laurel said India is a very prospective site for putting up canning facilities with its availability of tuna raw material.

   “It is quite interesting for me to note that India has a potential of 230,000 metric tons of tuna annually of which 40% is skipjack and the rest is big eye and yellowfin.  That’s something worth looking into by way of putting up the facility or at least buy more materials to feed existing Filipino-owned factories around the western and central Pacific,” said Tiu at the IPM-ABC.

   Filipino companies are unique in a way that these have the fleet to catch the  fish and the plant to process and can the fish. The biggest volume, 86%,  is canned in pouch, and 14%, is in tuna loins.

   “In the 1960s, boats were a lot smaller now.  Now we compete with world’s best with purse seine large fishing vessels,” he said during the IPM-ABC co-organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food (PCAFI).

Filipino-owned Frabelle Fishing Corp. runs tuna processing-canning plants in Papua New Guinea Credit-Frabelle

   FFC is into deep-sea fishing, aquaculture, canning, food manufacturing, processing, food importation and trading, cold storage, shipyard operations, wharf development, real estate development, and power generation.

   Since Filipino-owned companies already operate canning facilities overseas, it can further just expand to India whose available tuna supply can be processed right where the fish is caught. Filipino-owned tuna companies have existing canning plants in Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

   Another expansion option, Tiu said, under this India-Philippines cooperation is for Filipino companies to expand their fleet and fish around India’s fishing ground.  That is if they are permitted.

   “We are willing to expand our tuna fleet where we are welcome to fish.That’s something quite encouraging to look at in India.  The Philippines will be willing to invest as long as they’re are allowed to fish– if that’s  possible,” said Tiu.

   Frabelle is a world-class fishing company.  It runs a fleet of over 100 vessels.The company employs 5,000 people.  Its markets for seafood are Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South Africa, and the United States.

    The Philippines exports the large chunk of 90% of its tuna production mainly to  the European Union, 60% (where it enjoys preferential duty); United States, 40%; and to the Middle East, Japan and Australia, a combined 26%. Only 8-11% is marketed locally.

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said expansion of the country’s fishery sector arising from the trade cooperation between India and the Philippines is expected to improve the lives of Filipino fishermen who depend on fishing for their livelihood.

   “The fisheries sector provides employment to over 1.6 million people, 85% of whom were from the municipal fisheries and 1% from commercial fisheries, while the aquaculture sector employed 14%,” said Fausto.

Frabelle has a fleet of more than 100 vessels producing fresh fish mainly from western and central Pacific. Credit-Fis-net

   “The Philippine fishing industry contributed around 2% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 15% of the total Philippine agriculture output “

   Indian fishery authorities who attended the IPM-ABC said there are huge opportunities for value addition in India’s fishery sector. 

   “Tuna has great investment opportunity in India.  We recognize the Philippines as a world leader in tuna processing. You come to India and directly invest,” said Cherian Cherian Kurian, managing director of India’s M/s HIC ABF Special Foods.

   “The Indian government announced a policy to exploit these resources.  Today we do canning in India, but volume is so low.”

   Tuna is the Philippines’ biggest seafood export with  value of $300 to $400 million yearly.

   With the successful virtual business conference co-organized too by the Indian Embassy in the Philippines, Indian Ambassador Shambhu S. Kumaran said both agencies will host other conferences that will benefit both countries’ agriculture subsectors. Among the next business conference may be on the dairy and livestock sectors.     (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Philippines, India jointly eye $12 billion global seaweeds market

May 29, 2021

The Philippines and India are jointly eyeing a $12 billion global market or 32 million metric tons (MT) for seaweeds as a bilateral cooperation takes off complementarily between both developing countries.

   While China and Indonesia dominate by 80% the global market, the two countries are optimistic of commonly boosting production of seaweeds and its processed form, carrageenan, through business and technical cooperation.

   The growing bilateral relations in marine fisheries and aquaculture is brought about by eagerness of private companies from both countries to invest in each other’s sector as a result of a pioneering work of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI).

Seaweed culture farming in Zamboanga. Credit-NAST

   PCAFI President DAnilo V. Fausto the industry is “happy and delighted” that Indian Ambassador to Philippines Shambhu S. Kumaran brought up the idea of the India Philippines Virtual Business Conference on Marine Fisheries and Aquaculture (IPBC-MFA).  The first of such IPBC-MFA was held Thursday.

   “Indian fisheries sector produces over 7 million tons of fish and shellfish from capture fisheries and aquaculture, almost double of that produced by the Philippines, representing nearly 5% of the world’s total fish production,” said Fausto.

   Yet, Fausto said both countries can immensely benefit from exchange of resources, technology, know-how as Philippines also has much to offer.

   “Philippine aquaculture has strong potential for further expansion and development with our vast resources 338,393 hectares of swampland, 14,531 hectares of freshwater fishponds, and 239,323 hectares of brackish water fishponds,” Fausto said.

   “The Philippines sits at the heart of the coral triangle, the global center of marine biodiversity.  The Verde Island Passage boasts the highest concentration of marine species with its reefs as home to nearly 60% of the world’s known fishes and 300 species of corals.”

   During the business conference,   Dr. Munisamy Shanmugham M/s Aqua Agro Processing Manamaduria (Tamil Nadu)  vice president, said this is the time to invest in aquaculture, including seaweeds in India. Government, he said, has allotted budget of INR 640 crore ($88.34 million) to promote the industry and provides subsidy for seaweed cultivation.

   “There is huge demand for seaweed hydrocolloids in India, but currently 50-90% is met through imports,” said Shanmughan.

  There are new areas –Gulf of Mannar and Gulf of Kutch—that may be considered for seaweed cultivation to meet India’s demand.

   India just started to establish in 2010 its processing facilities for producing carrageenan, a value-added processed form of seaweed. Carrageenan acts as emulsifier, thickener, additive, and preservative in food and consumer products. It is an input in manufacturing dairy, gelatin, and meat products and other high value consumer products such as toothpaste and gels.

   The Philippines is a global leader in carrageenan and seaweeds and has put up its processing facilities way earlier than other countries. Its seaweeds and carrageenan exports totals to around $200 to $250 million yearly. It has strength in technology and know-how in carrageenan manufacturing. It was the first in the world to develop seaweed species Euchema and Kappaphycus for commercial cultivation for carrageenan.

Carrageenan, a thickener, enhancer, emulsifer, preservative. Credit-Medium

   Even with that, the Philippines still has huge expansion area of 140,000 hectares of potential seaweed farm for expansion, according to Alfredro Pedrosa III, Seaweed Industry Assn of the Philippines (SIAP), said in the same conference.

   “These are the resources that sustain our industry. We have available farm area of 200,000 hectares along coastlines.  Only 60,000 hectares are farmed.  We have 500,000 hectares of deep-sea available farmable area,” said Pedrosa.

   Opportunities for investments in the Philippines in seaweed industry are ripe, Pedrosa said, as domestic demand exceeds supply.

   The following factors also augur well for seaweed investments, he said:  ASEAN market integration, consumer preference for natural products such as seaweeds, and new climate change adaptation strategies and COVID pandemic recovery.

   The Philippines has continuing research and development (R&D) activities on other seaweed species.  Surprisingly, there is an abundance of 893 seaweed species in the Philippines, he said. But only a few are used for carrageenan of perhaps less than 10 species including Eucheuma, Gracilaria, Sargassum, and Kappaphycus.  Other seaweeds species to be cultured are Halymenia, Porpyra, and Ulva Lactuca. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)