Monday, August 29, 2016

PhilRice keen on Indonesian crop system

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is recommending an Indonesian-inspired cropping system to rice-based farming communities as the Philippines braces for the newest natural phenomenon to hit the country.
PhilRice experts have evaluated the Sorjan cropping system developed by Indonesian farmers, in response to climate change and farm productivity maximization.
Sorjan is a system that constructs an alternate of deep sinks and raised beds, with features that can adapt to both dry and wet seasons.
“There’s a heightened need to develop technologies that will enable the adaptability and economic stability of rice-based farming communities. This is a good climate change adaptation technology in both flood- and drought-prone rice areas,” said Rizal Corales, PhilRice Intensified Rice-Based AgriBioSystems (IRBAS) program.
State weather bureau PAGASA activated the La Niña Watch last May and warned of possible flooding in low lying agricultural lands, extensive damage to standing crops, increase in pest and disease, and coastal erosion due to strong waves and coastal flooding, among others.
In flood-prone areas, the sink impounds more water and can tame its flow while raised beds and bunds constructed allow farmers to plant dry-land crops such as vegetables and cash crops.
PhilRice said the sink of the Sorjan system could serve as rain water harvesting or impounding mechanism for farmers in drought-prone areas.
“The sink with the impounded water can be used for rice production and other crops like gabi or kangkong, and for fish production. The water stored in the sink can later be used for irrigation,” Corales said.
As a diversified and integrated farming system, PhilRice said Sorjan ensures food security due to the variety of food source, and eventually a more stable source of income.
“The Sorjan cropping system can generate an income of up to 10 times higher than the income from rice with the same piece of land, which we are trying to prove,” Corales said.
According to PhilRice, vegetables that can be grown with Sorjan system include eggplant, pepper, tomatoes, upland kangkong, bush beans, cowpea, pechay, mustard, kale, lettuce, spinach, okra, corn, and herbs.
The fish component may include cat fish, gourami, and tilapia while the bunds can be planted with okra, bush and pole beans.
PhilRice said the system also has the potential to help farmers generate income from other crops while waiting for rice harvesting.
“With Sorjan, the production can support the family’s daily food requirements and expenses. Thus, putting the rice income later as savings or as capital for other income generating endeavors,” Corales said.

Farm Tourism law a boost to agricultural growth

Farm Tourism law a boost to agricultural growth
By Mary Grace Padin

A new law, which seeks to develop the local farm tourism industry, is expected to raise the income of farmers and spur the growth of the agriculture sector in the country, an official of the Department of Tourism (DOT) said over the weekend.

In an interview, Tourism Undersecretary for Regulation, Coordination and Resource Generation Alma Jimenez said RA 10816, also known as the Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016, would bring a “major improvement” to the country’s agriculture sector.

“The law institutionalizes the farm tourism programs of the government. (Farmers) will have other means of raising their income and have other economic activities to ensure their livelihood,” Jimenez told The STAR.

Josephine Costales, chairman of Costales Nature Farms in Laguna, said the law would provide opportunities for farmers to augment their earnings, and at the same time, increase players in the rural tourism industry.  

“The purpose of agri-tourism is to alleviate the marginalized poor farmers. The law will also push for what President (Rodrigo Duterte) wants, that is to promote rural tourism in the country, of which agri-tourism is part of,” Costales said on the sidelines of the Philippine Tour Operators Association general membership meeting.

Costales, who is also a member of the technical working group of the implementing rules and regulations of RA10816, said the departments of tourism, trade and industry, and agriculture through the Agricultural Training Institute, have already drafted the IRR for the said law.

The rules are expected to be finalized before the end of the year.

She said the IRR would include provisions for the development and promotion of farm tourism through education and training, infrastructure support and financial access, among others.
“First of all, educate the farmers what farm tourism is, how it will affect them and how they are going to benefit from it,” Costales said, adding that her farm has been identified as a national training center for farm tourism.

She added the law would also ensure an enabling environment for farmers to get into farm tourism.
“(Under the law), the government will give them some help regarding their finances. Then those farms will be helped through (infrastructure development),” she said.

RA 10861, a consolidation of Senate Bill 3002 and House Bill 5299, was signed into law by former president Benigno Aquino III last May 16.

Farm tourism mainstreamed in 2012 starting with Costales Nature Farm in Laguna. The country now has more than 100 accredited establishments nationwide, majority of which are located in Luzon.

It is under the umbrella of nature tourism that holds around 20 to 30 percent of the overall tourism market in the country.

RA 10816 defines farm tourism as “the practice of attracting visitors and tourists to farm areas for production, educational and recreational purposes.”

During the 4th Farm Tourism Conference held in Tagaytay last month, Senator Cynthia Villar, head of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said the sunshine industry could help farm owners earn additional income in rural areas where poverty is highest, through tourism activities.

Villar also envisions the creation of farm schools in every municipality which will provide education, technology, and financial literacy to farmers in the countryside to make them competitive.
She also encouraged the use of organic technologies and sustainable agriculture in the practice of farm tourism.


Friday, August 19, 2016

BSWM Conducts Technical Briefing on Soil Mapping Analysis in Davao Region

    "Change is hard at the beginning, messy in the middle but gorgeous at the end," Bureau of Soils and Water Management  (BSWM) OIC, Director Sonia M. Salguero quoted Robin Sharma during the technical briefing on "National Soil Sampling and Testing for Fertility and Crop Suitability Assessment " held at the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office XI (DA-RFO XI) on August 10, 2016.

    In the course of the meeting, the BSWM discussed the project protocol in the conduct of simultaneous field survey and data processing. The outline includes procedures for sampling, testing, survey and mapping; institutional arrangements; terms of reference of Project Staff; and composition, roles and responsibilities  of regional field teams.

    Moreover, the BSWM urges the DA-RFO XI to use a template survey form where selected farmers shall be interviewed to determine the farming practices in the area particularly on the crops and varieties cultivated, the fertilizer usage and other relevant information.

    DA OIC, Regional Executive Director Ricardo M. Oñate, Jr., on the other hand, manifested his support by way of offering assistance to the BSWM on accommodation and vehicle support to the team during their field activity for the period of 22 days starting August 10.  

    Dir. Oñate also underscored that the implementation of the said activity is highly acknowledged as it will help boost and improve farmers’ productivity in Davao region.

    "Nagpapasalamat ako na maganda ang ating partnership. And definitely we would like na matapos po sana ang soil sampling activities dito sa aming area before the end of this month," Oñate said during the technical briefing with the BSWM.

    The Davao region is among the priorities in the programs of the new administration towards achieving "Available and Affordable Food for the Filipino." (Amelia M. Fermia DA-BSWM)

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Agricultural “Bagsakan” Planned for Metro Manila

Traditionally, agricultural products have their “bagsakan” or trading post at the Divisioria Market. But recent efforts in cleaning up the metropolis resulted in the banning of these vegetable markets in Divisoria itself. This has led to a drastic reduction in the incomes of farmers who relied on having their produce sold at Divisoria.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) plans to establish a “Bagsakan”  in Metro Manila next month (September 2016). This will serve as the delivery point for all produce from the provinces and will enable the farmers to efficiently market and sell their products.

“There is no estimate yet as to the  cost [of putting up the center]. But we’re initially looking at tents just so we could address the problems of farmers,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol sent in a text message.

“We will do our best to do it in one month,” the DA Secretary said.

The volume of vegetables was greatly reduced because of these new guidelines on cleanliness in the traditional markets in Manila.

“While this development may initially be considered a crisis especially by our vegetable farmers in the Cordilleras, I look at this as a development which offers windows of opportunities,” according  the DA Secretary.

“I have long planned the establishment of a Farmers’ Trading Center in Metro Manila to allow provincial food producers to display their products which could be sold on wholesale basis,” Piñol chimed in.

A government owned property in Metro Manila is being eyed by the DA for the trading center.

“If the space which the DA could locate would allow it, we could even put up cold storage facilities and chillers so that meat, fruits and vegetables would have longer shelf life,” Pinol added.

“Vegetables, fruits, native chicken, goats, pork, organic farm eggs and others could be put on display in the farmers’ trading center allowing the farmers to sell their produce without going through the rigors of looking for buyers and a place to sell their products,” Piñol disclosed.

Also live fresh seafood and dried acquaculture products could also be sold in the “Bagsakan” particularly from southern Luzon, Central Visayas and Mindanao

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

New Technology to Triple Philippine Onion Output

New farming technology from Vietnam will be tested in the Philippines for the first time. The Department of Agriculture will allow VietGrow, one of Vietnam’s biggest seeds  and fertilizer producer.

VietGrow developed the farming technology in its Mekong River Delta region where 7,000 hectares are solely for onion farming.

Current Philippine onion farming techniques allow only 1 seasonal harvest annually since it takes 6 months for the onions to ripen. The new technique will enable farmers to harvest 3 times a year, effectively tripling onion farm outputs.

Demonstration farms would be established North Cotabato, Southern Leyte, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Ilocos Norte and Mindoro.

“Should the demo farms produce positive results, this would mean the end of the days when Filipino onion farmers are at the mercy of imported and smuggled onions,” Secretary Piñol disclosed

The traditional way of planting seeds would give way to using onion tubers as planting materials that could be harvested in two months instead of the current 6 months.

“The process starts with the intensive seeding of bulb onion seeds in a nursery area. When the bulb onions have grown to thumb-size, these are harvested and replanted to the propagation area at a ratio of one ton per hectare,” the DA Secretary said.

“The excess planting materials could be kept for as long as eight months thus giving the farmer the leeway to plant again as soon as he harvests the first crop,” Piñol said.

It is estimated that a hectare can earn Php720,000 to Php900,000.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Enrollment of Agriculture at UPLB Decreases

The Philippines being an agricultural based economy has always been dependent on its the produce of its agricultural sector. This sector not only depends on the ordinary farmer but also on a cadre of agriculture professionals.

It was bared at the UPLB School of Environmental Science and Management (Sesam) that there is a decline in the number of students taking up agriculture. This does not bode well for the country’s food security.

At UPLB, there are only 4.7% of students enrolled in the agriculture course compared to 43% in 1995 and 51% in 1980. The professional labor force of the agricultural sector and that the BS Agriculture programs are becoming less appealing as a career choice. This were also buttressed from Commission on Higher Education (CHED)statistics showing a decline in the total number of students taking up the course.

In order to arrest the decline, one method is to bring elementary and high school students to successful farms. The youth must be presented with examples of a thriving agricultural business. 

“Exposing them to prosperous agricultural farms could be one approach. Promoting agritourism could make children have a feel of a thriving business and encourage enrollment in agriculture,” said Jesusa Coladilla of UP Sesam in remarks sent through a statement.

Farmers save rainwater for dry seasons.

Farmers in Brgy. Biclat, San Miguel, Bulacan are taking advantage of the rainy season by saving rainwater for their rice farms’ use during dry months. Small farm reservoirs (SFR) help them do so.

SFR, according to Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM), is a water impounding structure with a maximum height of embankment of 4 meter and average pond area of 1,500 square meters. Farmers with areas no more than 2 ha of rainfed farms find the tool convenient to use.

“Almost every farm here has SFR since we have limited water resources and irrigation can’t reach us,” said Rodelio B. Viola, chairman of Biclat Farmers Field School Marketing Cooperative.

Farmers use SFRs as fishponds to give them extra income during the first cropping season.  They use the water from SFR for rice production in the second cropping season, particularly before or during summer.

For farmers who want to start their own SFR, they would have to spend more than P10,000.
“We rent digging equipment such as bulldozer or backhoe. In our area, the rent costs P2,000/hour,” said Florentino B. Salvador, a farmer and owner of three SFRs.

“Diggings are made every five years to maintain the depth of the structure as it becomes shallow with soil erosion. If the farmer has resources, he can dig it every year,” he added.
Experts at the Rice Engineering and Mechanization Division of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said that SFR is just one of the water harvesting techniques farmers can use during the rainy season.

Other technologies include small water impounding project (SWIP), diversion dam, dug-out pond, open ditch, and rain interceptor ponds and ditches.

According to Engr. Kristine S. Pascual, water harvesting techniques such as SFR, are important as there is a negative effect when rice is submerged in the water for a long time.

“Aeration will be an issue, resulting in poor tillering of the rice plant,” she said.

Pascual also gave tips on managing water in the rice field during the rainy season. “Dikes and irrigation canals must be fixed to make sure that the water flows to the drainage or any impounding structure,” she explained.

She added that farmers can avoid the onslaught of typhoons and floods by following a cropping calendar to guide them on the proper timing of planting rice.

PhilRice breeders also suggest that farmers can plant flood-tolerant varieties such as NSIC Rc194 (Submarino 1) which has an average yield of 3.5 t/ha and matures in 112 days.

For more information on water harvesting techniques, farmers may contact the PhilRice Text Center at 0920 911 1398.


Rice Prices based on Adequate Supply

Prices of milled rice declined by two percent in the first half largely due to adequate supply despite the negative effects of El Niño, according to the National Food Authority.

NFA administrator Tomas Escarez said the ample supply during the six months through June was “attributed to the output from the summer travel harvest from February to April, and the timely arrival of rice imports before the lean months of July to September.”

Based on data from the Philippine Statistics Agency, the national average price for well-milled rice was P41.13/kilogram in the first quarter as against P42.68 during the same period in 2015.
For the second quarter, prices of the nation’s major staple amounted to P41.3/kg versus P41.81/kg last year.

The NFA placed the current national rice inventory at 3.08 million  metric tons, sufficient for 96 days. Of this volume, 913,500 MT belong to NFA, good to last for 28 days, while 994,700 MT are commercial stocks, and 1.168 million  MT are household stocks.

Escarez said the decline in rice prices “highlights the significance of prudent buffer stocking, market positioning and monitoring by the agency so that availability, accessibility and affordability of the staple food are continuously safeguarded and maintained across the country.”

“Being the basic food of Filipinos, rice traditionally comprises about 30 percent of every Filipino family’s food basket, thus a stable price and supply, more so a decrease in prices, always redound to the greater benefit of majority of our populace, especially the poor,” Escarez said.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Piñol orders release of P2B worth of idle equipment

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has ordered the distribution of around P2 billion worth of equipment which were allegedly kept in various warehouses of the Department of Agriculture.

“I issued a directive that all equipment kept in all DA compound all over the country must be released within a period of two months. I ordered to start the distribution today,” Piñol said.

The agri chief issued the directive after reports confirmed that an estimated P2 billion worth of farm machineries and equipment were not distributed to farmer groups and local government units.

Piñol added the regional directors were at a loss on how to handle the distribution of equipment.

The regional office failed to distribute the equipment because farmer groups were not able to provide a 15 percent cash equity.

Farmer groups were supposed to shoulder 15 percent of the cost of the equipment under the guidelines issued by former DA Secretary Proceso Alcala.

 “I had to ask the opinion of two lawyers of the DA to determine whether the 15 percent equity to be paid by the beneficiaries directly to the equipment suppliers was legal,” he said.

Pending the resolution of his legal question, Piñol decided that the equipment must be immediately released or the government would be put at a disadvantage.

Farmer beneficiaries will just be asked to sign a deed of undertaking which says that if the 15 percent equity is legal, it will be paid by installment over a period of four years.

“I issued a stern warning to the regional directors that I will not allow the procurement of any other equipment without sufficient validation on the capacity of the beneficiaries to handle it and exhaustive social preparation,”  he said.

Just earlier this week, Piñol ordered an investigation of officials of DA-South Cotabato for failing to distribute around P100 million worth of equipment to farmer groups.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Php20 million allotted by DA for School Gardening Program

During the 1970s as an offshoot of the Green Revolution Program, the Youth Civic Action for Progress (YCAP) was established. Part of this program would be cultivating plots of land inside the premises of all schools. These included planting crops such as tomatoes and corn. This became part of the curriculum and also taught even urban based students the rudiments of farming. It was incorporated also in science subjects and scouting.

Taking a page from history, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is allotting P20 million to create a national school gardening program in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd).

During one of the Cabinet meetings, Agriculture chief Emmanuel Piñol presented to Education Secretary Leonor Briones the idea of bringing back basic gardening as a special activity for elementary school children in both public and private schools nationwide. “She liked the idea and so we agreed that DA and DepEd would work together to implement a national school gardening program,” the DA said.

This program will make basic gardening a special school activity which is unlike the 70s program that included it in the cuirriculum. But the intention is also beneficial to all students who will participate since farming is a life skill that will be carried over the entire life of the student participant. The DA will provide the technicians, gardening tools, seeds, organic fertilizers and even irrigation equipment. 

“Most Filipino children do not even know how to plant vegetables or even just basic gardening. For many, the closest they get to farming is by playing Farmville in the computer,” Piñol said.

Funding for the program will be included in the proposed 2017 budget of the department.

BSWM, Takes Key Steps Towards Accomplishing National Soil Testing

    In keeping with the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol's order to complete the soil mapping analysis, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) started to mobilize the DA-Regional Field Offices (RFOs)  and Local Government Units (LGUs) for the Phase 1 implementation of the "National Soil Sampling and Testing for Fertility and Crop Suitability Assessment."

    The BSWM OIC, Director Sonia M. Salguero manifested her full and active support to the programs of the new administration towards achieving "Available and Affordable Food for the Filipino" by targeting the development of a web-based interface for enhanced access by farmers and other stakeholders of the color-coded maps.

    "We need to extend our help to the farmers and provide them with up-to-date and accurate data for them to easily  determine what kind of fertilizers to apply and which crops are suitable to plant in their areas," Salguero  said.

    For the period 2010 to 2015, the BSWM with counterpart-funding support from the DA-RFOs and responsive LGUs has completed soil fertility assessments in 12 provinces, 1 municipality and 1 city. These are located in regions 1 (Ilocos), 6 (Western Visayas), 7 (Central Visayas), 8 (Eastern Visayas) and 11 (Davao), mainly covering rice areas.
    Moreover, in the same period, the BSWM, with funding support from DA-RFOs and LGUs, undertook crop suitability assessment in 6 provinces, 7 municipalities and 4 cities covering more than 2 million hectares. The map outputs included suitability map for major crops in their locality such as rice, corn, coconut, banana, vegetables, pineapple, fruit trees and even agro-forestry.

    "Sa misyon na ito, tungkulin natin ang makapagbigay ng tama at agarang aksyon para tugunan ang pangangailangan ng ating mga magsasaka sa tulong ng makabagong teknolohiya," Salguero added.

    The top 47 major rice producing provinces were considered for Phase 1, however, 8 have already been updated (2014-2016) thus the BSWM will undertake suitability assessments to cover the remaining 39 provinces. (Amelia M. Fermia DA-BSWM)


Monday, August 8, 2016

Government bent on providing free irrigation by 2017

The government is bent on providing free irrigation to farmers starting next year, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said.

Quoting President Duterte, Pinol said: “I have not forgotten. That’s a commitment which will be fulfilled.”

“The President’s commitment of free irrigation will certainly be realized. When Duterte makes a promise, he makes sure it is fulfilled,” the Agri chief added.

Duterte reminded rice farmers to organize themselves and make sure irrigation canals are well maintained as the government pushes through with its plan to provide irrigation water for free.
Piñol has proposed an additional P4 billion in the 2017 budget of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to ensure free irrigation in 2017.

The NIA had earlier suggested a budget of P36.8 billion for 2017. If the additional funding is approved, the agency’s allocation will amount to P40.8 billion.

“By providing an additional funding, NIA will no longer depend on the collections from irrigation fees of farmers for the salaries of its officials and employees and for its operations,” Piñol said.

NIA spokesperson Filipina Bermudez earlier said the 2017 budget is allotted for the construction, restoration, and rehabilitation of irrigation projects and existing irrigation systems.

“The GAA (General Appropriations Act) for 2017 is not for PS and MOOE (personal services and maintenance and other operating expenses). It should be explicitly stated that part of the P40 billion is for PS and MOOE,” she added.

NIA collects up to P3 billion in irrigation fees annually and relies on the fees for employees’ salaries and allowance, as well as funding for operations and maintenance of existing irrigation systems in the country.

To achieve the government’s goal of free irrigation, Piñol sought the support of the Senate to implement the plan and fortunately gained positive feedback from Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senators Loren Legarda, Cynthia Villar, Koko Pimentel, Alan Peter Cayetano, Manny Pacquiao and Kiko Pangilinan.

Piñol said Congressmen from different provinces including Leyte, Samar, Biliran and the Bicol region have expressed their support to the government’s free irrigation project.

“I expect the free irrigation commitment of the president to sail through both the lower and upper houses of Congress smoothly,” he said.

Aside from beefing up the budget, Pinol is proposing to amend the NIA’s charter in the long run so that “providing free irrigation to farmers will no longer be just a political decision of a president who cares for the poor but a policy of government.”

President Duterte issued his first executive order early this month, reorganizing the the Office of the President and reverting the NIA and Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority to the Department of Agriculture.
By: Louise Maureen Simeon (Philstar)


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