Amid imminent “food catastrophe,” government urged to support private businesses that invest 95% of agricultural production

May 25, 2022

The private sector has pressed government to bolster support for private businesses given the imminent “food catastrophe” arising from many global phenomena topped by the Russian invasion that compel food producers to ban export.

Russia, Ukraine, India, among others, have already stopped wheat exports while many other countries contemplate to keep their food production for their own security.

As such, Philippines faces food security threats, along with soaring food prices, because of its heavy food import dependence.

Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) President Danilo V. Fausto said the private sector plays a critical role now that the country still lurks with travails from Covid 19.

“Government should provide the right environment and incentives for the private sector to invest, expand their production, value chain and supply chain logistics,” said Fausto at PCAFI’s first face-to-face assembly two years since the pandemic began.

“Government should not kill them with competition from cheap and subsidized imported products.”

While the Department of Agriculture (DA) has made importation its pivotal policy to produce food, this is a mere short term solution.

“Providing cheap food for the consumers and fighting inflation through imports is a short term solution. Producing our own food requirements, although a longer process, will be more sustainable for our people,” Fausto said.

The private sector provides 95% of the investments that bring about agriculture production, he stressed.

In the face of world hunger, the more should agriculture sector get a bigger share in budgetary increase even despite the country’s ballooning debt of P12.7 trillion.

“We appeal that food production should not be sacrificed as the Department of Budget and Management undertakes hair-cuts for future budget allocation.”

Livestock and poultry, contributing a third or 30% of agricultural production should get a sizable budget from only 3-4% of the DA budget.

With the supply of imported feed wheat now limited, local corn production should be raised. Corn supply is currently at measly 57% sufficiency level. Feed wheat is an alternative to corn which represents 60% of feed ingredients. Feed itself represents around 70% of cost in growing chickens and pigs.

Cheaper alternative to feed inputs should be tapped as those developed by Filipino scientists from University of the Philippines Los Banos.

DA should promote use of inorganic oil-based fertilizers, utilizing organic materials, resulting in equally high yield and efficient production of rice and other crops.

PCAFI expects ratification of the Philippine Livestock Industry Development Act.
It has repeatedly appealed for the establishment of a first border quarantine facility, undertaking food safety measures amid the debilitating African swine flu and fighting smuggling of agriculture products.

All tax revenues derived from imported commodities must be utilized to the same sector where it was generated to help develop the said industry.

If the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is ratified, incentives should be given for export winners to expand jobs creation. More protection should be granted to losing products facing stiffer competition from imports.

“More products have to be supported to expand our variety of agricultural exports to bring in more dollars, We must not suffer the same fate from our painful lessons when we joined the World Trade Organization,” said Fausto.

“Appropriate laws were passed by Congress and the Senate. But the implementation of these laws were not done to keep our affected agriculture sub-sectors protected, compared to other countries like Vietnam and Thailand.”

PCAFI also presses government to implement the following long awaited programs.

  1. Establishment of reliable and real time data information system.
  2. Incentives to investments and easy access to credit and capital. Review of the implementation priorities of Philippine guarantee fund.
    Out of the total outstanding guarantee done by Philippine Guarantee Corp. (PGC) of ₱207 billion, only ₱500 million is for agriculture credit and ₱300 million for micro small medium enterpries (MSMEs).
    But a whopping ₱203 billion is allocated for real estate, benefitting big developers that do not need to be guaranteed by government.
    The farm sector also needs more the institutionalization of the use of warehouse receipts in guaranteeing credit which is a former function of the bankrupt Quedan and Rural Guarantee Corp.
  3. Rationalizing legal framework for the use of generic seeds for corn and balancing the use of organic fertilizers to reduce dependence on expensive oil- based inorganic fertilizers
  4. Accelerate effort to farm consolidation and clustering for mechanization and economies of scale. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

UBRA poultry farmers opposes reappointment as DA secretary of Dar who promoted ‘vested interests’ of food importers 

May 20, 2022 

The United Broilers and Raisers Association (UBRA) has opposed the reappointment of Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William D. Dar who has promoted a regime of importation and the “vested interests” of importers “at the expense” of farmers. 

In an open letter to President-elect Ferdinand Bongbong R. Marcos Jr., UBRA said Philippines and its farmers became sacrificial lambs on Dar’s import policy that failed to lower food prices. 

Such misguided neo-liberalist position neglected to harness Philippines’ resources to achieve “food sovereignty.” 

“He (Dar) has been completely subservient to the misguided emphasis on import liberalization. The reality is that whether accidentally or intentionally, it has conveniently benefitted mainly the vested interests of importers at the expense of the majority of our people,” UBRA said led by its president, Lawyer Jose Elias M. Inciong.

  “Retail prices have remained high despite increasing importation through the years. It has made us dependent on overseas employment and business process outsourcing.” 

UBRA cited that during Dar’s term (2020), Commission on Audit’s (COA) found P9.454 billion in disallowances, audit suspensions, and charges, P17.542 billion in unliquidated fund transfers to implementing agencies and non-government organizations, P20.21 billion unliquidated fund transfers in prior years, and P9.806 billion returned to national treasury.  

Dar will be worsening Philippines’ vulnerability to climate change, consequently, food security.  

This is as irrigation source for rice farming has been adversely limited by conflict posed by China and droughts in countries where Philippines sources its food imports. 

“In Indochina, the area most relied upon by neoliberal economists for our rice imports, there has been saltwater incursion in the Mekong Delta up to at least 15 kilometers. Dams built by China have interdicted the flow of the Mekong River from its source,” Ubra said in the letter also signed by its chairman Gregorio San Diego.  

“In the Indian subcontinent, another source of rice imports, droughts are becoming perennial. The same with the whole of United States. The lakes along Rio Colorado are at 30% or normal levels. Australia has had drought problems for years. There is an increasing trend for banning export of food.” 

It will be the Marcos’s administration’s biggest fault to reappoint Dar.  

“He has been openly and aggressively campaigning to be retained as secretary of Agriculture. Please do not succumb to his shameless self-promotion and propaganda. As aptly stated by  Senate President Tito Sotto in a committee hearing on smuggling, that would be the ‘biggest mistake” of the next administration.” 

While some import liberalists assert that Singapore is a progressive food-importing nation, UBRA said “Singapore itself has decided to increase its level of self reliance given its limitations.” 

Singapore aims to reduce its food importation from 90% to 70%. That, despite its small population. End 

“Secretary Dar’s tenure has been about importation from heavily subsidized agricultural systems. We are on very dangerous ground because he implemented import liberalization to the hilt.   It (reappointing Dar) will not be an act of shooting oneself in the foot but in the head,” said UBRA. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Dairy farmers opposed DepEd’s sourcing of milk for its feeding program from multinational corporations, depriving Filipino farmers 

April 6, 2022 

Dairy farmers have vehemently opposed a proposed Department of Education (DepEd) policy to source from multinational corporations – instead of from Filipino farmers– the milk for its School Based Feeding Program (SBFP).  

The Dairy Confederation of the Philippines, in a letter to DepEd Secretary Leonor Magtolis-Briones, said Filipino milk farmers stand to lose P250 million from the policy. 

Besides, RA 11037 “states unequivocally that as far as practicable,” milk for the SBFP shall be sourced from local farmers and processors. 

“This is in violation of the purpose and spirit of RA 11037,” said DCP Director Danilo V. Fausto in the letter. RA 11037 institutionalizes the National Feeding Program for Undernourished Children in Public Day Care Center, Kindergarten, and Elementary Schools to Combat Hunger and Undernutrition. 

The latest policy is for implementation from April to June 2022. 

“We strongly deplore and object to this sudden and unilateral program implementation schedule for the 2022 GAA (General Appropriations Act) . The schedule will unfairly prevent the local farmers, cooperatives and local milk processing plants from supplying the milk requirements of the SBFP under the 2022 GAA,” Fausto said. 

Filipino-produced fresh milk-Gatas ng Kalabaw by DVF Dairy

The local dairy farmers, processors and cooperatives started serving the SBFP during GAA 2019 in the last quarter of 2020 and continued on to GAA 2020 and then to GAA 2021 which is currently ongoing.  

“They cannot possibly be expected to supply the GAA 2022 milk in the sudden and unilateral imposition of an April 2022 to June 2022 period within which to supply milk because the 2021 GAA is still ongoing. And the milk is still being produced and delivered,” Fausto said.  

The milk feeding for 2021 is still ongoing because of the pandemic and will finish by June 2022. DepEd wants to implement 2022 starting April to June this year, overlapping the ongoing milk feeding using the budget for 2021. 

This will in effect allow foreign multinationals to come in since “we will have to finish first the 2021 up to June, thus, local dairy farmers cannot supply the April to June request of DepEd.” 

DepEd is now asking NDA (National Dairy Authority) and PCC (Philippine Carabao Center) to sign a certification that local dairy farmers cannot supply the milk to allow the entry of foreign multinational dairy companies, dislodging the local dairy farmers for the GAA budget 2022. 

“The very spirit why RA11037 was created…to give livelihood and income opportunities for our local farmers. Local dairy farmers can supply the milk required under the program.”. 

DepEd wants to implement the milk feeding program only for 16 days, while the recommendation of the National Food and Nutrition Council is 90-120 days to have real and meaningful impact on the health of school children.  

Furthermore, majority of the local dairy farmers and cooperatives have reinvested their earnings to expand their capacities. 

“And now they will be shut out and excluded under the program, consequently resulting in losing millions of pesos for these dairy cooperatives, turning their expansion to white elephants,” said Fausto. 

“If they allow multinationals to enter, the rest of 2022 beginning July to December, the local dairy farmers & cooperatives will be shut out and excluded. The multinationals will advantage of the milk feeding program funded by tax payers’ money.” 

DepEd does have a commitment on fund utilization with the Department of Budget and Management, DCP admitted. But this unilateral decision to implement starting April 2022 effectively excludes local dairy farmers and milk processing plants.

The policy will double multinationals’ share to the milk feeding program in 2022 to 41.89% equivalent to 442.692 million from 19.07%  in 2021. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Pagtanaw sa 2050 nangangarap gawing dakilang pang-karagatang bansa ang Pilipinas

1 Pebrero 2022

Inilathala ni Melody Mendoza Aguiba

Nagpahayag si senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros ng pagsuporta sa vision  na kung tawagin ay “Pagtanaw sa 2050” na naglalayong pangarapin na ang Pilipinas ay maging isang tunay na dakilang pang-karagatang bansa. 

   Ang taglay nitong pulu-pulong heograpiya ay magiging pinaka-importanteng asset o kayamanang na pang-ekonomiya ng Pilipinas.

   Sa isang online forum na tinawag na “Halalan Para sa Agrikultura 2022” na inorganisa ng Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), nagpahayag ng paniniwala si Hontiveros na higit sa anumang katangian, ang pag-hinang ng kayamanang pang-karagatan ang mag-aangat sa ekonomiya ng Pilipinas. 

   Ang importansya nito ay higit pa sa anumang kayamanang pan-lupa o likas na yaman.

   “Naalala ko ang mga adbokasiya na naglalayong ang ating kasaysayang pang-karagatan ay dapat na ituro sa ating mamamayan.  Iyan ay mahalaga sapagkat ang ating karagatan ay mas malawak kaysa sa ating kalupaan,” sabi ni Hontiveros.

   “Kaya nga’t aking kinikilala kayong mga nag-balangkas ng ‘Pagtanaw sa 2050.’  Mas hinigitan pa ninyo ang ‘Ambisyon 2040,’” ayon kay Hontiveros  sa online forum na pang-agrikultura. 

   Ang ambisyon na ito ay maaring isama na mungkahi sa lehislatura para na rin suportahan ang mga Pilipinong mangingisda at lahat ng mga Pilipinong may ipinaglalabang karapatan sa kayamanang pang-enerhiya sa West  Philippine Sea, sabi ni Hontiveros.

   Ang kayamanang pang-karagatan ng Pilipinas ay dapat na laging ipagmalaki maging sa lokal man na  usapin o pang-daigdigan, sabi niya.

   “Dapat itong malaman ng bawat isang Pilipino, ng bawat mag-aaral.  Dapat isapuso ang ganito nating pagkatao.  At dapat tayong mamuhay ayon sa ganito nating taglay na katangian sa rehiyonal o pang-daigdigang kalagayan,” aniya.

   Ang forum na pinamunuan ng pangulo ng PCAFI na si Danilo V. Fausto ay kapwa inorganisa rin ni Alyansa Agrikultura Convenor Ernesto M. Ordonez, Pambansang Syentista na si Emil Q. Javier,  Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Leonardo Q. Montemayor, at Rice Watch President Hazel Tanchuling.

   Ang pangangarap sa Pagtanaw sa 2050,  na pinamunuan ng National Academy of Science and Technology o NAST ng Pilipinas, ay nagsaad na ang ating industriyang pang-karagatan ay magbubunga ng $3 trillion na kita. 

Hinahangad ng “Pagtanaw sa 2050” na ang Pilipinas ay maging dakilang pang-karagatang bansa

   Ito raw ay ayon sa projection na ulat ng Overseas for Economic  Cooperation and Development o OECD.

   Sinabi ni  Javier na ang Pagtanaw sa 2050 ang magbubunsod ng modernisasyon ng agrikultura ng Pilipinas. 

   At dahil dito, mahalagang maitayo ang isang Department of Fisheries.  Ito ay hiwalay sa kasalukuyang Department of Agriculture kung saan napapaloob ang Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources bilang isang maliit na unit.

   Ang tinatawag na “Blue Economy” ay ang uri ng ekonomiya na nagdudulot ng kayamanan mula sa karagatan sa paraang maka-kalikasan at sa paraang sustenable o nananatili sa pang-matagalan.

   Ito ay isang hakbang tungo sa pagyaman ng ekonomiya na kinakailangan upang matutustusan ang pangangailangan ng bawat Pilipino sa hanap-buhay, kaseguruhan ng pagkain, at paglalaan ng raw material para sa mga industriya.

   Kinakailangan lamang na maglaan ng puhunan para sa pangkaragataang transportasyon, turismong pang-ekonomiya, pangangalaga ng kalikasan, at maayos na pagpapatakbo ng mga pasilidad ng tubig at iba pang infrastructure.

   Para sa mga Pilipinong naninirahan sa mababang baitang ng mga lugar malapit sa baybaying dagat, magkakaroon ng maraming oportunidad sa turismo. 

   Ito ay magbibigay ng kabuhayan sa 5.71 milyong mangggagawa sa mga resorts. 

   Ito rin ay magbibigay ng hanap-buhay mula sa pag-aayos ng baybaying dagat, pangingisda, at aquaculture (1.6 milyong mangggagawa).

   Para sa industriya sa baybaying dagat, 300,000 na manggagawa ang magkakaroon ng hanap-buhay.  Magkakaroon rin ng hanap-buhay mula sa pagpapatakbo ng pantalan, industriya ng barko at pangkaragatang transportasyon, pang-karagatang enerhiya, pagmimina ng langis sa dagat, bio-teknolohiyang pang-karagatan at parmasyutiko, at serbisyong pang-kalikasan.

   Mapagsisilbihan na ng Blue Economy ang pangangailangan sa diet para sa protina ng mga Pilipino na ang kuwarentang bahagdan (40%)  ay mula sa pangisdaan. 

   Matutustusan na ang pangangailan ng 30 milyung Pilipino na umaasa sa karagatan para sa kanilang kabuhayan.

   Uusbong ang mga bagong industriya at teknolohiya mula sa Blue Economy.  Kasama na rito ang bio-enerhiya sa pamamagitan ng produksyon ng algal biofuel, mga gamot, kosmetiko, pagkain, pagkain ng mga hayop, produkto ng inumin, at multi-trophic aquaculture (produksyon ng hipon, tahong, talaba, sea cucumbers, sea urchins.)

    “Ang ambag ng pangkaragatang industriya sa ekonomiya ay magiging napakahalaga lalo na sa pagpapalawig ng trabaho,” ayon sa Pagtanaw sa 2050.

   Noong 2010, ito ay tinataya sa $1.5 trilyon o 2.5 bahagdan (2.5%) ng pan-daigdigang gross value added (GVA).  Ang pang-karagatang industriya rin ay magbibigay ng direktang hanapbuhay sa 31 milyong katao, ayon sa Pagtanaw sa 2050.

   Dahil agrikultura ang pinag uusapan, sinabi rin ni Hontiveros na ang repormang agraryo ay dapat na maisa-katuparan ng lubusan.   

   Gayunpaman, mahalaga rin na i “cluster” ang mga lupa o malawakang pagsama-sama samahin upang makamit ang tinatawag na “economies of scale.” Ang layunin ng repormang agraryo at pag-oorganisa ng mga kalupaan ay hindi salungat sa bawat isa, ayon kay Hontiveros.  

   Sinabi ni Fausto na hindi makakamit ang economies of scale kung hiwa-hiwalay ang mga lupa sa Pilipinas. 

   “Dapat magkaroon ng win-win na solusyon para magwagi ang bawat isa.  Ang  Department of Agrarian Reform ay may proyekto na ang tawag ay ‘Split’ na pinopondohan ng World Bank. Ang isa nitong layunin ay ipamahagi ang mga lupa sa isang banda, at sa isang banda naman ay i-organisa ang mga agrarian reform beneficiaries upang lumawak ang kanilang kabuuang mga lupain bilang cluster.  Ito ay magpapababa sa gastos sa produksyon ng pagkain at iba pang produktong pang-agrikultura,” sabi ni Hontiveros.

    “Wag po nila gawing prublema ng agrikultura yung isang kasing-halaga na programa ng repormang agraryo. May win-win na solusyon po talaga kung ikakambal at ituturing nilang magkapatid yung dalawang programa.  May iba’t ibang modelo po iyon,” ani Hontiveros.

   Mahalaga na palakasin ang kapasidad ng mga agrarian reform beneficiaries, kahit sa unang award sa kanila ng lupa o kahit pa ipamana na sa kanilang mga anak ang maliliit na parsel ng lupa.  Pero dapat rin na may programa talaga ang gobyerno kasama ang  pribadong sektor (para sa repormang agraryo.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Investments in cold storage, amendment of Rice Tariffication Law, promotion of agri among young people to be pushed by Escudero, Cayetano

February 22, 2022

Investments in cold storage facilities, amendment of the Rice Tariffication Law, and promotion of agriculture among young people will be pushed by aspiring senatorial candidates Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano once reelected.

   During the online forum Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Alyansa Agrikultura and three other organizations, the two senatorial reelectionists also said agriculture’s budget increase will be top of their agenda.

   Escudero said cold storage will play a significant role in upgrading Filipino farmers’ livelihood status as it will enable the transport of farm goods to unserved areas. 

   It will preserve farm goods’ quality, raising their prices, while serving the needs of locations that do not produce these goods.

   “We lack cold storage facilities. We can’t assure the good quality of our produce without cold storage in each province. Why don’t we put up incentives for (those investing) in cold storage?” said Escudero.

Sorsogon Governor Francis Escudero (Photo above- Taguig Representative Alan Peter Cayetano)

   As most of the cold storage facilities in Metro Manila are designated already for imported goods, Escudero said government can assume what importers are doing—renting in advance these facilities.  That is to assure that Filipino farmers are equally accorded the benefit of preserving their produce’s good quality.

   There are hardly cold storage facilities in Bicol Region, Masbate, and Catanduanes. Such facilities are found only in Albay and Camarines Sur.

   Cayetano said during the same forum that integrating successful small farming models into the national program is needed in order to upscale agricultural production. For instance, Jollibee and San Miguel Corp, he said, are already entering into contract growing with farmers’ group.

   “Our good ideas are never integrated,” said Cayetano during the online forum also co-organized by the Federation of Free Farmers, Coalition for Agricultural Modernization, and Rice Watch.

   Regarding the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), Escudero said he will push for an amendment of the RTL. It has not achieved what it intended to do – supposedly to benefit the rice sector and rice farmers and bring rice price down for consumers.

   “Our imports should have a timing.  Why do we import (rice) during harvest? The imports compete with what our own farmers produce. We import galunggong. If only we supported fishermen with fingerlings, the benefit should have gone to our own fishermen,” said Escudero.

   Cayetano said there is so much fishing opportunity in Laguna Lake which only has a P40 million budget.  But the beautification of Manila Bay with dolomite received an initial P50 million, then P200 million.

   Presidentiables should be made to commit to complete a certain number of hectares of irrigation capacity during his term, he said. Commitment should also be done on a concrete number of farm to market roads to be constructed during a presidentiable’s term, Cayetano said.

   As the average of farmers in the Philippines is already at older side of 53 now, Cayetano said agriculture should be promoted among young people as “desirable and profitable.”  That is considering that there are many rich people engaged in agriculture, unlike what is popularized as the image of poor Filipino farmers.

   “You can see (poor) farmers shown on TV. But if they watch European or American movies where farmers are rich and using drone and high tech devices (our young people will be convinced to take up farming,” said Cayetano. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Hontiveros affirmed “Pagtanaw 2050” vision for Philippines to be one “truly great maritime nation” with its archipelagic nature

February 1, 2022

Senatorial aspirant Risa Hontiveros affirmed a vision in “Pagtanaw 2050” for Philippines to be one “truly great maritime nation” in light of the country’s archipelagic nature as its most uniquely significant economic asset.

   At the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI)-organized Halalan Para sa Agrikultura 2020 Monday, Hontiveros assured Philippines will have its biggest economic potential in harnessing its marine resources, more than any of its land or capital.

   “I recall advocacies for us to teach our maritime history to our people since our seas are bigger than our lands.  I congratulate you for your ‘Pagtanaw 2050’ as even goes beyond ‘Ambisyon 2040,’ said Hontiveros in Filipino during the agriculture online forum Monday.

   “That can be a legislative input in support of our fishermen at for all Filipinos who have legitimate claim to energy resources in the entire West Philippine Sea.”

   Hontiveros said the Philippines should highlight this distinctive islands-nation feature whether on regional or global stages.

   “This should be known by every Filipino, every student, to internalize such identity, and we should behave, should act such in regional and global stages.”

   The forum led by PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto was co-organized by Alyansa Agrikultura Convenor Ernesto Ordonez, National Scientist Emil Q. Javier,  Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Leonardo Q. Montemayor, and Rice Watch President Hazel Tanchuling.

   The Pagtanaw 2050 visioning, led by the National Academy of Science and Technology, noted that $3 trillion will be generated from ocean industries based Overseas for Economic  Cooperation and Development forecast.  Javier asserted Pagtanaw 2050’s role in agriculture modernization which will need the establishment of a separate Department of Fisheries. 

   The “Blue Economy” (sustainable ocean-focused) approach to economic prosperity is imperative for the Philippines’ provision of livelihood, food security, and industry raw materials, according to Pagtanaw 2050.

   Investments have to be made on coastal transport, ecotourism, habitat protection, and water use and supply management, among others.

   With 60 million Filipinos living in low-elevation coastal zones, economic opportunities will be on tourism (now with 5.71 million workers), resorts, coastal development, fisheries and aquaculture (1.6 million workers), coastal manufacturing (300,000 workers), ports, shipping, marine transport, ocean energy (with coal now taking up 40% of energy mix), seabed mining for oil, marine biotechnology and medicine, and environmental services. The Filipino protein diet of 40% comes from fisheries, and some 30 million Filipinos depend on it and related industries for livelihood.

   Among emerging industries and technologies from the Blue Economy are bioenergy through algal biofuel production, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, food, feeds and beverages; multi-trophic aquaculture, and food and medicine.

Pagtanaw 2050 visions Philippines as one truly great maritime nation

 “The contribution of ocean-based industries to economic output and employment is very significant.  In 2010, this was valued very conservatively at $1.5 trillion or approximately 2.5% of world gross value added.  Direct full time employment in the ocean economy amounted to around 31 million jobs,” according to Pagtanaw 2050.

   Regarding land reform which has yet to be completed in the Philippines, Hontiveros said that the efforts now to “cluster” lands in order to achieve economies of scale is not opposite to the effort in agrarian reform.    

   Fausto cited studies that the agriculture sector cannot achieve economies of scale due to the fragmentation of land brought by land reform.

   “There should be a win-win solution (land reform versus clustering).  Department of Agrarian Reform has a project called Split funded by World Bank.  Their job on one hand is to break down lands and on the other, to consolidate lands. To achieve economies of scale and lower cost of production, there should be a solution to this for our agriculture production,” Fausto said.

    “Wag po nila gawing problema ng agrikultura yung isang kasing halaga na programa ng repormang agraryo. May win-win solution po talaga kung ikakambal, ituturing nilang magkapatid yung dalawang programang.  May iba’t iba pong modelo iyon,” she said.

   “Yung empowerment ng ating mga agrarian reform beneficiaries, kahit sa unang award sa kanila at kahit pa ipamana na sa kanilang mga anak sa mas maliliit na parcel pero (dapat may ) programa talaga ang ating gobyerno in partnership sa ialng mga private sector (para sa agrikultura),” said Hontiveros.  (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Proposed Bureau of Cooperative under DA to play pivotal role in consolidating fragmented farm land to achieve economies of scale, agri modernization

January 13, 2022

The proposed Bureau of Cooperative under the Department of Agriculture (DA) will play a pivotal role in consolidating fragmented farm lands to enable Philippines to achieve economies of scale and agro-industrial modernization.

   Senator Richard Gordon said government should promote “cluster” farming or cooperative farming so large scale of land can be consolidated amid the agrarian reform’s land fragmentation.

   “There is strength in number.  Even in foreign policy, treaties are a result of equal bargaining strength.  We should encourage cluster farming or cooperative farming.  They do that in Del Monte,” Gordon said during the Philippines Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc.’s (PCAFI) Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura.

PHOTO Providing farmers cost-efficient farm mechanization becomes possible with land consolidation, farmers’ organization. Credit-DA

   “If farmers are  disorganized, if you let them by themselves, business will not come in as there are no rules.”

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto, along with Alyansa Agrikultura led by Ernesto Ordonez, and three other farm-based groups,  has been orienting 2022 election candidates on the plight of agriculture. 

   Also proposing recommendations through the online forum are Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Sec. Leonardo Q. Montemayor, National Scientist Dr. Emil Q. Javier, and Rice Watch Chair Hazel Tanchuling.

   In order for agriculture services to be rendered to farmers, such as providing for them cost-efficient farm machineries, their organization is pertinent.

   One of such way to organize farmers is for bigger farm companies to enter into contract growing agreements with small farmers.

    “Contract growing in the private sector will formally integrate small farmers into the supply chain,” said Javier, also chairman of the Coalition for Agricultural Modernization (CAMP).

   Gordon, a senatorial reelection aspirant, said the cooperative will be a way to protect farmers from exploitation of traders and middlemen who exploit farmers by paying the cheapest price.

   He said a law does not need to be enacted for the cooperatives to be put up.  The cooperative system has already been existing among successful groups such as the TADECO (Tagum Agricultural Devt. Co) or among sugar planters.

   Gordon envisions the establishment of industrial parks for agriculture ventures such as the parks in Subic where enterprises enjoy tax incentives in order to flourish.

   “The Department of Agriculture (DA) should create an atmosphere so farmers can sell their production and be supported with the extension.  Private sector can fund the farmers so that farmers have the assurance of a market for their produce,” he said.

   PCAFI and the four farm-based groups have also filed with the candidates 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)

Loren Legarda pushes for more creation of micro farm industries like Antique’s Robusta coffee and patadyong weaves

January 12, 2021

The Philippines should create more micro farm industries like Antique’s Robusta coffee and ‘patadyong’ weaving products that have their own domestic markets, thereby easing “logistics” problems, House Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda said.

   During the “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Legarda, a senatorial aspirant, said her own province, Antique, hurdled the problems of Covid 19 as Congress supported marketing of local products.

   “We supported agriculture.  We had an amendment on the budget, provided mechanization to farmers and free seeds for palay and high value crops,” she said. 

   The series of agriculture online forum is being conducted by PCAFI led by President Danilo V. Fausto along with Alyansa Agrikultura led by Ernesto Ordonez, Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Sec. Leonardo Q. Montemayor, National Scientist Dr. Emil Q. Javier, and Rice Watch Chairman Hazel Tanchuling.

   While there has been difficulty marketing of agricultural goods since Covid 19 lockdowns hit Philippines in March 2020, it became an opportunity to improve farmers’ production.  

Senatorial aspirant Loren Legarda shows off Antique Coffee during the Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura

   The Antique government bought tomatoes, leafy vegetables, and melon from farmers. It hauled these via private cars and tricycles, and gave these away during the lockdowns to residents.  These– instead of giving away canned goods.   

   Also, Antique’s coffee received its needed promotion.

   “People don’t know that Antique has Robusta coffee.  I bought more than one ton (1,000 kilos) of coffee.  I arranged for its packaging, wrote its short story, and named it Antique Coffee.  It’s now being sold in online stores and the Echo store.  It’s my Christmas gift for friends,” she said.

   As another important industry for Antique women, the Antique local government also put up a small cotton processing plant in order to support the “patadyong” weaving craft.

   “When we speak of farming, it’s not just food crops.  In my province, we grow cotton so we won’t have to import cotton or we won’t have to use polyester for natural weaves,” said Legarda.

   “I put up a cotton processing facility, manual labor.  We have hand looms provided and cotton threads from our cotton farm.  We do the same thing for abaca.”

   Roberto C. Amores, President of the Philippine Food Processors Inc (Philfoodex) and PCAFI member, said logistics has been a perennial problem in the Philippines.  Cost of inter-island shipping is prohibitively expensive. 

‘Patadyong’ weaving in Antique. Credit-Benjie Layug

   Industries have been pressing for an amendment of the Cabotage law. Prohibitions against international shipping lines’ entry into the domestic waters are reportedly sending shipping costs to exorbitant levels.

   This is where supporting local products should come in, Legarda said.

   “The logistics issue is a challenge.  But by supporting local and selling and buying locally, then we don’t even have to think of export because our products may be easily consumed even within our islands,” said Legarda. 

   PCAFI and the four farm-based groups have been orienting 2022 election candidates on the state of Philippine agriculture and have 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)

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)