Thursday, September 24, 2015

Boosting Philippine Corn Yield via New Technology and Attitude

Joseph Calata does not appear like a typical farmer. Sporting a hairdo straight from Dragon Ball Z, wearing apparel that belongs to Bonifacio Global City rather than in the middle of cornfields in Echague, Isabela, Calata is breaking the image of the typical farmer, not only by appearance but by having a bold vision for Philippine farming.

A young and hardworking agricultural entrepreneur with a passionate interest in promoting farming as a viable and lucrative option for the youth of the country. His advocacy is to encourage the new farmers to utilize the latest farming technology and combine it with an astute business sense. Recognizing that the environment needs to be protected, these techniques will reduce the level of impact in the environment. Also, there is a need to replenish the manpower requirements of agriculture in the country. Calata cites the official Department of Agriculture data that the average age of the Filipino farmer is 57 years old. This development, when not arrested will lead to huge tracts of farmlands that will remain uncultivated in the near future that will have a sever effect on the food security of the country.

By combining the new breed of Filipino farmers with a boost in the harvest yield, Mr. Calata aims to propel Philippine agriculture into the 21st century. There is money to be had in agriculture.

Boosting Yield

Mr. Calata has partnered with Siembra Directa Corp. (SDC) of Argentina to boost harvest yield in corn farming. SDC is engaged in the development of corn planting, harvest and post-harvest capabilities of  corn farmers.  By using mechanical planters and fumigators, corn planting will have significant gains aside from higher yield. These mechanical planters will plant corn accurately with the proper amount of fertilizers. The process would minimize soil erosion, prevent soil compaction, reduced time for farmland preparation and lowering of fertilizer and irrigation costs.

The proper amount of fertilizers used in this process would also benefit the environment since there will be no excess fertilizer that can seep down to the water table or runoff into streams and rivers that will have a negative environmental impact.

The yield results in comparison is significant. Currently, the local corn farming method have a harvest yield of 3 to 6 tons per hectare. By employing the new method advocated by Mr. Calata, it could be increased to 9 to 10 tons per hectare as what is being done in Argentina today. This will benefit the revenues of the farmers, will lead to lower production costs and increase the availability of food in the country.

That is how new technology and new attitude will improve Philippine agriculture.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Filipino Corn Farmers to have Easier Access to Credit

The Department of Agriculture is set to implement a financing model that further improves credit access for small farmers participating in the agribusiness value chain.

The turnover of P40-million worth of funds by the DA’s Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) to the Philippine Postal Savings Bank, Inc. (Postbank) on September 18, 2015 served as the indicator. Agriculture Secretary and ACPC Chair Proceso Alcala has already signed the implementing guidelines of the AFPP.
Secretary Alcala disclosed that the ACPC Governing Council’s approval of the AFFP-VCFP signifies the importance of putting in place a viable agricultural value chain financing model that can be utilized by mainstream financing institutions.

“With improved credit access, the program hopes to enhance farmers’ production capacities, productivity, and incomes. It also intends to contribute to the national government’s goal of promoting inclusive growth,” Alcala said.

Financing scheme for inclusive growth

The value chain approach capitalizes on existing business linkages between farmer-producers and traders or processors to lessen credit risk.  This approach in agricultural financing is recognized globally as one of the schemes that have potential in promoting inclusive growth in rural areas.

Under the AFFP-VCFP, the initial funding of P40 million from ACPC will be used to support the implementation of a value chain financing facility for individual farmers or farmer groups registered in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) and market tie-up with established buyers. The Postbank will also match the loan fund with its own counterpart fund equivalent to at least the amount of loans availed of under the program.

The additional funding support from the ACPC will enable Postbank to sustain its value chain financing activities for small corn farmers in Zamboanga del Norte and Bukidnon. This will ensure that the productivity of corn farmers, hence providing the supply of corn grains needed by the ZGI.

The Program will be implemented in the DA’s priority areas, initially in the provinces of Bukidnon and Zamboanga del Norte. Other provinces may be covered subject to criteria to be set by the DA.

Also on the horizon, Secretary Alcala also wants other commodities such as cassava, rubber, banana, and cacao to later be considered for inclusion under the program, which will be implemented within a one-year period.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Philippine Coconut Industry

The Philippine Coconut Industry
Rolando Dy, Ph.D.


This paper seeks to address three objectives: identify and discuss the major problems and issues affecting the current programs in the sector; discuss the effects of government policies and programs (DA and LGU) on the sector and how these policies and programs helped the sector go closer or farther away from the major goals in the AFMA of poverty alleviation, sustainable agriculture,and global competitiveness; and suggest concrete policy recommendations that will ensure government programs to be more attuned to AFMA goals.

The coconut industry comprises the largest farm area (3.3 M ha and 1.4 M farms)in Philippine agriculture. It hosts some 3.4 M farmers and workers (Faustino,2006). Coconut products generate the largest agri-food export. The industry has performed dismally over the years due to several reasons, foremost of which are:the lack of top level resolve, inequitable resource allocation, and implementation constraints. As a result, low productivity prevails and, in turn, high poverty and insurgency.

Problems and Issues Confronting the Current Programs

There are several issues that confront the coconut industry. These include: the lack of top level commitment which has led to a lack of a serious development program for the industry; the severe shortage of long-term financing for perennial crops; resource allocation criteria, which is biased toward rice; institutional issues with the PCA implementing mostly under-funded, short duration programs and implementation problems with limited involvement, if at all, of LGUs, the private sector, the civil society, and the academe; lack of civil society engagement especially in analyzing the whole gamut of problems besetting the sector; global market access such as the campaign of overseas soybean interests against CNO in the US food usage as well as labeling and wrong attribution of the negative impact on all saturated fats, including medium chain triglycerides from coconut oil; and CARP and other laws which have discouraged private investments following provisions on retention limits as well as transferability.

Government Policies and Programs and their Effects on the Sector and AFMA Goals

Government policies are generally biased against tree crops in general, and coconut in particular. First, public sector investments have focused on irrigated rice due to the decades-old drive for rice self-sufficiency. Second, slow implementation of CARP has contributed to investor uncertainties, and militated against investment in long-gestating tree crops. Third, limited grace period for tree crops and the high real interest rates resulting partly from Government macro policies had made investment in long gestating crops unattractive (World Bank, 1999).Further, the age old reliance on the “recovery” of the coco levy fund as a means to develop the industry has also boomeranged. Little funds were allocated by the Government to coconut replanting since 1986.Moreover, the AFMA funding constraint is severely exacerbated in the case of coconut where support is miniscule relative to the needs.

Meanwhile, programs implemented included the World Bank-supported Coconut Farms Development Project (CFDP), DAR’s agrarian reform communities(ARCs) program, and the GMA Coconut program which took off from the Maunlad na Niyugan Tugon sa Kahirapan Program, and the development of two million ha of agribusiness lands in order to create two million jobs under the MTPDP where 1.35 million ha will be in coconut lands. The focus has mainl ybeen on increasing the productivity and income of farmers through replanting,fertilization and rehabilitation, as well as implementation of coconut-based arming systems.

Overall, however, the policies and programs of the coconut industry were characterized by lack of sustained directions and funding.The “low intensity” approach to solving the problems of the coconut industry meant lost opportunities in the last two decades especially in the areas of poverty alleviation, global competitiveness, sustainable development, rational use of resources, and people empowerment. It is a sad commentary of what development management is not. Coconut provinces continue to be equated with high poverty and, in many cases, insurgency. Vast areas of lands generate low returns. The coconut industry is not globally competitive due to failure to put in place competitive strategies and actions. Agriculture is under threat as many coconut regions are unable to provide good incomes. In the process, out-migration becomes the option for the rural poor.

Intercropping for Coconuts

The Philippine Coconut Authority released a paper regarding intercropping as early as 1999. It was written by Dr. Severino S. Magat, Scientist IV of the Agricultural Research and Management Department, Philippine Coconut Authority. The proposed intercropping and primary product diversification is called Enhancement of Economic Benefits from Selected Coconut based Farming Systems (CBFS) Practices and Technologies.

The main crops for intercropping are the following:

1. Corn (Maize)

Under the coconut + corn cropping, with the achievable yield of coconut of 2 tons copra (8,000nuts/ha) and 5 tons of corn grains (2 croppings/yr), the annual total investment of PHP22,050 (US$452.7) could generate a net income of about PHP42,950 (US$881.9), and a benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 2:1

2. Banana (Saging na Saba variety)

a 5-year cropping period, the average annual direct investment cost of PHP18,000 per ha
generates a total net income of PHP434,000 (US$8911.7)/ha. The BCR increases from year 1 to 5, meaning: at year 1 = 1; year 2 = 4.0; year 3 = 5.7; year 5 = 7.1

3. Coconut Multi-storey cropping (Coconut, papaya, pineapple and peanut)

 For a 3-year cropping cycle of this multi-storey CB FS with papaya, pineapple and peanut as component intercrops, covering a total of 2.5 ha effective land cropping area (coconut = 1.0 ha, papaya = 0.50 ha, pineapple = 0.50 ha and peanut = 0.50 ha), with an investment of about PHP63,838 (US$1310.8) per ha of coconut land, it generates an annual estimated total net income ofPHP132,409 (US$2,719) per ha Under the production costs and commodity prices used, an average BCR of 3.43 is achievable.

4. Rootcrops

Among the root crops recommended under CBFS are: cassava, gabi (taro), ubi (yam) sweet
potato and ginger under acceptable ages of 1 - 6 years and 26 – 60 years-old trees. These intercrops can be intercropped in spaces under the inter-rows of coconut (8 – 10 m, square and triangular planting arrangements) as well. Spacing followed a re: 1) cassava – 0.75 – 1.0 m (rows) and 0.50 – 0.75 m (hills); 2) sweet potato – 0.75 – 1.0m (rows) and 0.25 – 0.50 m (hills)

Based on a hectare basis with a land use intensity of 1.75 ha (1 ha coconut, 0.40 ha cassava and 0.35 ha sweet potato, a total annual net income of PHP31,198 (US$640.6) is generated for this CBFS

5. Coffee

Using coffee excelsa variety grown under coconut (spaced 9 – 10 m square), at full-bearing stage (5 – 6 years), net income from coffee trees (2 tons bean yield/ha per year) is PHP80,566 (US$1,654) or a total net income (coconut and coffee) of: PHP 103,805 (US$2,131).

* This data came from and is to be updated.

Coconut Levy


In 1973 the Philippine Coconut Authority was empowered to collect a levy from coconut millers for the benefit of the coconut farmers. In 1974, the COCOFED took control of the PCA governing board. In 1975, the PCA acquired control of a bank and renamed it the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) to service the needs of the coconut farmers. Levies collected by the PCA were deposited into the bank initially interest free. The President of the Bank was Eduardo Danding Cojuangco and Juan Ponce Enrile as the Chairman.[1]

In 1983, due to a power struggle in the management of San Miguel Corporation, Enrique Zobel sold 19.5% of his San Miguel shares to Eduardo “Danding”Cojuangco who use the Coco Levy funds of UCPB to buy them and effectively took control of SMC. When Andres Soriano II passed away in 1984, Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco took the chairmanship of SMC. This was cut short in 1986 by the EDSA Revolution where the government sequestered the shares of UCPB in SMC.

From the time the coconut levy was imposed up to 1982, total collections reached P9.7 billion. The money was sequestered by the PCGG in 1986 in response to protests from NGOs and POs on the unconstitutionality of the private character of the funds. They cited two grounds namely: (a) only the government has the sole authority to impose a tax and (b) the levy collected cannot be sued for private purposes. The COCOFED, on the other hand, counter filed, a case before the Supreme Court questioning the sequestration move by the PCGG. They claimed that the coconut is private property with the coconut farmers as owners. Until now, the issue has not been resolved and the funds are still sequestered and frozen.The controversy regarding the coconut levy actually resolves around two major issues – fund character and ownership. The levy was originally intended as public fund to be used for financing the capital requirements of the coconut industry. However, through “legal and political maneuverings,” the fund became private in nature. While then President Ramos issued executive Order No. 277 declaring the funds as “affected with public interest,” the EO did not categorically state that the fund is public. The Supreme Court later declared that the levy funds belong to the government.In a landmark decision rendered recently (2004?), the Sandigan Bayan upheld two important decisions of the Supreme Court declaring the levy funds as belonging to thegovernment (Romero, 2005).Recent events indicate willingness by various parties for compromise in order to finally resolve the issue and unblock the funds which from various estimates are valued at Php 50 toP100 billion for the San Miguel shares and other CIIF assets. A farmer leader indicated (June 2006) that there is need to resolve the 8 Civil Cases (No. 0033-A to H) at the Sandigan Bayan to finally unblock the levy funds.

In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled that 27% off SMC belonged to the coconut farmers. [2]
*The ruling is still appealable.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Govt to focus on reducing ‘cocolisap’ infestation in ‘hot spots’

Cocolisap infested trees in Camarines Sur
The government expects to reduce coconut scale insect infestation to moderate levels in nine hot spot areas by April, an official of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization (OPAFSAM) said Wednesday.“We will now focus in hot spot areas,” OPAFSAM Undersecretary Fredelita Guiza said in a press conference in Quezon City.

There are still some 625,000 trees that are severely infested by coconut scale insects – popularly known as cocolisap – in the following municipalities: Balayan and Calaca in Batangas, Bay and San Pablo in Laguna, Candelaria, Mauban, Sampaloc and Polilio in Quezon, and Isabela in Basilan.
“Ito na lang ang tututukan for the next several months… Ang target natin, hopefully, April matatapos natin… from severe to moderate na,” she said.

In June 2014, there were 58 municipalities identified as hot spot areas that were heavily infested by cocolisap. Guiza said the infestation was reduced to moderate from severe levels, those low levels those areas that were moderately infested. “Hindi na outbreak level, manageable level na,” she said.
Guiza said the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) protocol is a science-based protocol crafted “to reduce CSI population and prevent its spread.” It was launched in June last year. The IPM protocol involves harvesting fruits from infested trees, injecting trunks with systemic insecticide, spraying of organic insecticide, releasing bio-control agents, and fertilization.

The government successfully prevented cocolisap infestation from spreading to Bicol and mainland Mindanao, Guiza noted. There were 23 quarantine checkpoints to ensure the outbreak would not spread to Bicol and further down south. “Kung walang quarantine checkpoints hindi na-contain ang pag-spread,” Guiza said. She noted that Typhoon Glenda (Rammasun) which hit the country in July last year, helped reduce the infestation. “The combined impact of IMP protocol and reduction of pest population due to Glenda considerably brought down the pest population at a level that bio-control can sustain,” Guiza said.
Philippine Coconut Authority administrator Romulo Arancon Jr. said it will “essentially take two years before severely infested threes are back in production.” The government spent P177 million to treat 1,331,179 infested trees. 

“After the rapid ground assessment, a total of 1,186,242 CSI-infested trees were saved at a cost of P149 per tree,” Guiza said. In June 2014, some 2.1 million coconut trees, in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Quezon and Basilan, were infested. By August, the number rose to 2.7 million.
Through Executive Order 169, President Benigno Aquino III ordered government agencies to control the “massive infestation of scale insect.” 



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