Wheat imports feared to cause downward spiral on the already depressed corn price of P12 per kilo; govt urged to invest in storage, buy farmers’ produce

September 1, 2020

Domestic corn price is feared to go through a downward spiral from the already depressed P12 per kilo due to feed wheat imports coinciding with the harvest, compelling corn farmers to press government to show political will by prohibiting import arrival at harvest.

   Corn farmers have also challenged government to address perennial poverty among corn farmers by intervening in putting up corn storage facilities.  The lack of such storage facilities compel Filipino farmers to give in to low prices, or their produce just spoils. This renders farmers helpless at the mercy of traders trying to haggle for bargain prices.

      The Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (Philmaize) and the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) have denounced that Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) allowed feed wheat import arrival during this current corn harvest.

   Feed millers’ recent importation of a reported 81,200 metric tons (MT) of feed wheat is unfortunately bringing price further down to P12 per kilo or below. This is against expected farmgate of say P15 per kilo and above.  Feed wheat is a usual cheaper substitute to corn.

   “Imports of feed wheat accounts for only 1 to 2% of corn production.  But still, their effect on pushing down local corn price is significant. It becomes worse as the NFA (National Food Authority) no longer supports corn price as it now has a different mandate due to the RTL,” said PMFI President Roger V. Navarro.

   NFA is no longer buying corn from farmers even as its function has been limited by the Rice Tarrification Law implemented since 2018-2019.

   PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said government must continue its price support function for corn even especially amid the pandemic.

   “Government should immediately initiate aprogram to buy the corn being harvested at a viable price from the farmers for storage as buffer stock to support future demand during non-harvest season,” said Fausto.

   State competition-policing agency Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) has just released a study showing local corn price is significantly adversely affected  by feed wheat imports.

   “The Philippines imports feed wheat every month and therefore, when local corn harvest coincides with the arrival of feed wheat, the price of local corn is usually depressed, “ according to the study commissioned by PCC.

   “This is a more pronounced during the third quarter when the Philippines has the big bulk of local harvest and the quality of which is affected by lack of mechanical dryers.”

   Navarro said DA-BPI which issues import permits and Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPICS) should have known beforehand of this import arrival.

   “Feed wheat imports can arrive year-round because they have storage facilities from their origin. But they are timing arrivals even during the corn harvest just to take advantage of lower prices,” said Navarro.

   Philippines’ feed wheat imports come from Australia, Bulgaria, United States, Canada, India, Russia, Brazil, European Union, and Black Sea.

   With the Bayanihan 2 program intended to uplift Filipinos’ livelihood, the government should immediately intervene in supporting corn price and put up storage. This is along with providing technology and funding to counter the highly devastating Fall armyworm, Fausto said.

   “Corn is one of our major crops where millions of our farmers depend on for their livelihood. It represents around 10% of total crop production.  Government should protect our corn farmers especially during this time of crisis to allow them to survive. Importation of corn substitutes such as feed wheat should be regulated when corn is being harvested,” said Fausto.

    A PCC-commissioned study carried out by the Asian Social Project Services INc. (ASPSI) came up with this conclusion:

  • Local farm gate prices of corn go down even if international market prices might be high; this is primarily due to the lack of storage capacity when import delivery (corn and/or feed wheat) coincides with local harvest
    • Lower price (and income) dampens the interest and capacity of farmers to plant the next season hence feed millers have to buy high the next time around because of reduced local supply
    • This explains the boom and bust cycle in the Philippine yellow corn industry; but with more feed wheat imports, yellow corn farm gate prices might continue to be in a bust. Melody Mendoza Aguiba

ATTACHMENT:  Philippine Competition Commission study by ASPSI

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

July 4, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seed producer Bayer Crop Science targets 100,000 farmers by 2021 to migrate to highly-profitable hybrids resistant to diseases

June 22, 2020

Rice and corn seed producer Bayer Crop Science (BCS) is targeting by 2021 to reach 100,000 Filipino farmers who will migrate to using highly profitable hybrid seeds resistant to diseases so as to enjoy yield gain of 50 to 130%, grossing P200,000 per hectare for rice.

   Through partnerships with the Department of Agriculture (DA) in technical training of farmers and with others stakeholders (farmers’cooperatives, seed distributors, financiers), BCS believes the target is  reasonable. 

   The number is an increase from the 60,000 farmers it has so far helped to step up to using the high-yielding seeds since its first launch of its online agriculture training site Bayer Agricademy.

   The hybrid business is part of its aim to contribute to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.  These include “zero hunger” (Goal 2) as one in 9 people in the world are undernourished. The other goal is “no poverty” (Goal 1)—providing everyone healthcare, security, and education.

   “In the Philippines, the average landholdings for farming is less than 2 hectares and it could barely support the needs of a family of five, which is also the national average,” according to BCS.

   Given the technology and financial aid they need to succeed in rice and corn farming, it is foreseen that mostly family-run farming businesses will contribute significantly to economic growth from the grassroots, from the countryside. 

   “Of the estimated, 550 million smallholder farmers worldwide, it’s estimated that 97 percent work on farms that are smaller than 10 hectares and produce more than 80 percent of the food in developing countries. These farms are often family-run businesses that have a long history in the communities where they live.”

   Hybrid seeds can substantially raise yield and income attributable to traits such as disease resistance from Asiatic corn borer and the now emerging fall armyworm (FAW)  in corn farms nationwide.

13-tonner Dekalb 8899S is resitant to Asiatic corn borer and fall armyworm

   From the usual three to five metric tons (MT) per hectare, BCS’s FAW resistant corn variety Dekalb 8919S has posted an all-time record high harvest of 14.85 MT in a hectare.  It was specifically in a yield competition co-administered by the DA in Compostela Valley.

   Another Bayer superior corn variety, the  Dekalb 8899S, recorded 13.38 MT per hectare in the same competition in Davao City.

   For the Arize Bigante hybrid rice, farmers have been experiencing up to 2x increase in yield from the average four MT per hectare from inbreds to at least seven to eight MT per hectare from hybrids.  It enables farmers to double gross earnings from P100,000 to P200,000.

  While encouraging many farmers to step up to learning hybrid seed farming, BCS parent firm Bayer Philippines Inc. also has a crop relief programs to famers all over the world.

   Through this initiative, Bayer plans to help up to two million smallholder farmers that provide food security to tens of millions of families in vulnerable communities.

   Through its new “Better Farms, Better Lives” initiative, Bayer will complement its current commitment to support smallholder farmers in key countries by donating seeds and crop protection inputs. It will provide farmers assistance with market access and support for health and safety needs.  

   The donations help boost food security by supporting up to two million smallholder farmers facing increased challenges as a result of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic

   “To assist smallholder farmers in Asia, Africa and Latin America who are facing additional challenges resulting from COVID-19, Bayer, as part of its societal engagement activities.”

   “Better Farms, Better Lives” is in line with Bayer’s overall aspiration to help build a world where there is Health for All, Hunger for None.

   “Smallholder farmers are essential to providing food security to billions of people, but the on-going COVID pandemic is placing extra challenges on their ability to produce food for their communities and beyond,” said Liam Condon, President of Bayer’s Crop Science Division.

   “In this critical time, our hope is that our Better Farms, Better Lives initiative, additional support and partnerships with local and global NGOs will not only result in resiliency for smallholders but will also ensure this current health and economic crisis does not turn into a hunger crisis.”

   The COVID pandemic has caused logistical issues for many farmers globally due to enforced lockdowns which has limited access to seeds, crop protection inputs and labor. As a result of disruptions to food supplies, consumers may ultimately see higher food prices, ironically at a time when many farmers are seeing reduced incomes due to disruptions in the supply chain and the subsequent lack of market access.

   Bayer is committed to helping more than 100 million smallholder farmers in developing countries by 2030. The immediate COVID-19 response through the “Better Farms, Better Lives” initiative complements on-going smallholder support which will aid in mid-term recovery as well as long-term resilience.

   Additionally, in collaboration with others and to ensure the greatest successful impact for smallholders, Bayer will work and expand its partnerships with governments, internationally recognized NGOs (non-government organizations) and local organizations; create a Smallholder Center of Excellence for sharing successes; provide accelerated access to digital farming tools to increase capabilities; scale up existing and new value chain partnerships and further expand value chain partnerships across Asia-Pacific countries.

   The Better Life Farming Care Packages will be tailored to specific local needs and may include seeds for crops such as tomatoes, peppers, rice and corn to sustain livelihoods, crop protection products, personal protective equipment and safety and training materials.   For more information on Bayer’s “Better Lives, Better Farms” initiative and its commitment to smallholder farmers, visit http://www.bayer.com. Melody Mendoza Aguiba/Bryan B. Rivera

8.8 hectare farm village in Malvar, Batangas put up for aspiring agriculture entrepreneurs and hobbyists.

Vilegas OrganiKs founder Pabs Villegas in a horse-riding, agri-mentoring session at the VOHO Farm Complex, Malvar, Batangas

October 28, 2019

An organic  agri-tourism farm village stretching over 8.8 hectares in Malvar, Batangas  has been put up for  aspiring farm entrepreneurs and hobbyists who may now run their small farms and be part of the bigger, more profitable agriculture value chain.

   Agriculture Economist Pablito M. Villegas has established four separate, non-contiguous farms that operate as one agro-ecological and natural farming complex under the brand name Villegas OrganiKs.

   The farm village maximizes productivity and profit opportunities for small farmer-entrepreneurs or agripreneurs.

   Four farms form part of the Villegas. Organic & Hobby Farm Complex (VOHO) that are being sold to individual entrepreneurs.

   They receive a package of assistance in organic inputs supplies, agriculture technology, and marketing from VOHO and Malvar Organic Farmers Agriculture Cooperative (MOFAC).

  The farm lots have been sold to farmer-entrepreneurs who may be taking the risk for the first time in agriculture business. 

   But fortunately, they face higher profit opportunities and enjoy better risk management because of VOHO’s package of aids and services even to newbies.

   “We help amateur entrepreneurs to enjoy hobby and wellness farming and achieve economies of scale through consolidation of their produce together with other small farm lots owners,” said Villegas.

  He is an agriculture economist who was a retired vice-president of Landbank at the age of 40 and has been a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) consultant on agricultural and rural development.

  By operating as one the farm lots in the four farms divided into units with 1,000 to 5,000 square meter (SQM) area, farm investors can produce or buy cheaper inputs and have full access to natural farming technology. 

   They are able to negotiate with local buyers and direct consumers for a higher price for their produce with their combined bigger volume that enables them to sell to consolidators and institutional markets.

  Likewise, they are also able to obtain first and second party certification as organic producer or secure Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certification through VOHO’s assistance.

   The  farm complex consists of the following farms that are all within Malvar township:

  • San Pedro Uno Farm, 3.0 hectares with 12 farm lots duly sold out with remaining 0.583 ha of available lots for sale. It is located right adjacent to STAR Expressway. A total of 12 farm lots are now owned by individual entrepreneurs while 2 lots are run by VOHO itself. There is a whole block of 5,830 square meters (SQM) that will be sub-divided into 4 to 8 eco-farmville lots.
  • Villegas has also put up an 8,000 SQM amenities area and technology demonstration  site for organic farming.  The amenities area has air-conditioned three-door inn with outdoor kitchen for lodging of agricultural tourists. There is a sauna facility, swimming pool, and gazebo. A water pump is available for irrigation and domestic waster use.
  • San Pioquinto Farm, 3.2 hectares, with 4 farm lots now owned by individual farm-entrepreneurs while 12 more lots cut into 2,000 m2 and 3,000 m2, are still available for lot purchasers. 
  •  San Gregorio Agro-forest, located in the watershed and protected area of Taal Volcano and its Lakes, is a 0.9 hectare property, with 7 agro-forest farm lots still available.  With its sloping, hilly land area, it will be developed with a trekking pathway and a Glamping (Glamorous Camping) area on the riverbed of Balete River that drains to Taal Lakes.  Continuous planting is on-going in the agro-forest area (rambutan, Thai mango, Taiwan atis and guyabano, Malaysian Langka, a dwarf productive breed).
  • Poblacion Eco Tourism & Agro-industrial Farm, 1.73 hectares.  It will be subdivided into 8 lots for eco-tourism and multi-use purposes (as events place, pension or retirement homes , warehouse and logistics, and trucking and storage). It is right within the midst of the Metro Turf Racing Track in Malvar, and the nearby Summit Point Golf Course in Lipa City.

   Through Villegas OrganiKs, farmers are able to access nearby markets in the booming economy of Batangas (Sto. Tomas, Tanauan and Lipa Cities) where the Malvar town is at the center of the province. 

   At the same time, the farm lots have  an easy access to Metro Manila as Malvar is just 60 kilometers away from Magallanes, Makati. 

   That’s only a 40-minute travel (without traffic) via the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR).

   Their markets include the Malvar Organic Trading Post, the Lima Land Industrial Park, also in Malvar, the Lima Hotel, SM-Lipa, and Robinson-Lipa, and Ayala Mall. 

   The farmer-entrepreneurs automatically get aid on agriculture technology, organic farming in particular, through the Malvar Organic Agriculture Cooperative once they hold membership.

   Even before an aspiring farm-owner gets to own a farm lot at VOHO, farm produce are already waiting for him to harvest as the farms are already planted with different organically-maintained crops or fruit-bearing trees   that command high value (higher price) in the market.

   The San Pioquinto Farm is planted to all-organic banana, dragonfruit, guyabano, malunggay, kalamansi, pomelo, cacao, coffee, durian, mangoes, chico and pili.  There are also areas for organic vegetables (empalaya, okra, sitao), winged and lima beans, yam, turmeric and ginger with non-sting bees as pollinators.

   The San Pedro Uno Farm  is also an orchard planted to varied fruit trees coconut, mango, avocado, rambutan, chico, lanzones.

   The San Gregorio Agroforest is planted to more than 150 fruit bearing trees including lanzones, langka, mangoes, avocado, coconuts and indigenous forest trees (bamboo and gmelina.)

   Villegas said he has put up VOHO with a concept he has carried all along since childhood in the farm and when he was part of a think tank and execution group in the University of the Philippines, Department of Agriculture and  Land Bank and as an agriculture economist (with FAO/UN, ADB, World Bank and his consulting firm, Meganomics).

   As an employee or consultant then, he crafted value chain master plans programs and projects for agriculture and fisheries development in Africa, Pacific Islands and Asian economies including Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

   He has long conceptualized the Nucleus & Satellite Organic Farm Cluster (NUSOFAC). 

   It was long ago just a concept that aims to optimize farm productivity and give small farmers the benefit of being connected to the bigger, even international supply chain.

   But now he has made this concept into a reality in his own VOHO Farm model.  

   In this case, the nucleus is the VOHO Farm Complex, and it is the link that connects small farmers to the value chain. The satellites are the small farms connected via membership with MOFAC.

   The Villegas OrganiKs also has the SAGE, a Learning Center in its Amenities Area that also makes it an accredited learning site of DA/ATI for organic agriculture that has 3 training rooms and 28-people bamboo dormitory. Now, it has transformed into an agri-tourism destination.

   The Learning Center lodging has a 3-room Inn that may accommodate 10-15 persons.  The Amenities Area also has a swimming pool, a spa within and gazebo in front of a wide veranda.  

   As an agri-tourism site, the bonus it offers is the barriotic, refreshing panoramic view of four mountains– Mt. Makiling, Tagaytay Higlands, Malarayat Mountain ranges, and Mt.

Makulot.  The town is also surrounded by three rivers– Balete River, Alulod River, and San Juan River.

   The San Pedro 1 Farm is powered by solar panels, aside from power from the national grid, enjoying an environment-friendly, stable and hybrid source of electricity.

   Villegas encourages young and senior citizen investors to try farming initially as a hobby for health and wellness and eventually as a profitable and rewarding experience Villegas Organiks also contributes to the country’s food security and poverty reduction with 3 farmer laborers now transformed into farm family agripreneurs engaging on-farm, off-farm and non-farm enterprises.

   “While one is young, he should invest in agriculture, so that he will see his investment’s opportunity grow through the years,” he said.

   After all, even if one does not engage in farming in the farm village but just enjoy its provincial surroundings just a little outside of Metro Manila, he gets to own a fast-appreciating value for money property just nearby the nearest expressways from Metro Manila. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)

Courtesy Call to DA Sec. William Dar

Newly-appointed Department of Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar meets farm sector leaders led by Philippine Chamber of Agriculture & Food (PCAFI) President Danilo V. Fausto. (From left) Ernesto M. Ordonez, (Alyansa Agrikultura); Francisco Buencamino (meat processing); Salvador Salacup; Gregorio San Diego (poultry-United Broilers & Raisers Assn); Roger Navarro (Phil. Maize Federation Inc.); Dar; Fausto; Roberto Amores (Philippine Food Processors & Exporters); Noel Reyes, DA; Edwin Chen, (hog-PROPORK). The farm leaders strongly urge the new secretary to carry out reforms that will raise local food production that creates rural jobs and regulate and curb excessive imports.