Thursday, April 20, 2017

PH Scientists tackle Aquatic Resources Sustainability

The Philippines being an archipelago makes fishing and aquaculture as one of its main industries. This does not only apply to coastal communities but also in lakeshore communities and inland waterways, fishponds in brackish water and other aquatic food sources. Thus, a big portion of the population rely on aquaculture and fisheries.

What is alarming is that the value being produced has been declining since 2013 wherein it posted revenues of Php244,551,675.07 for 2013; Php241,943,849.72 for 2014 and Php239,702,373.57 for 2015. 

This alarming decline was acknowledged by the relevant government agencies and that will explore various opportunities in the fisheries industry.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) conducted a meeting in Cebu that included 300 scientists, researchers, academics and government agency representatives that will be the precursor of a larger scientific confab on July 2017.

It will focus on the two-fold sustainable development goal of conservation and sustainability of the aquatic industry in the short and medium term.

This was composed of presentation of researches in fisheries and aquatic resources. Speakers include academics Rhodora Azanza and Gisela Concepcion who discussed seaweed culture and quality education for sustainable development.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) was represented by Usec. Marlo Mendoza discussed clean water and sanitation is fishing while DENR biodiversity management bureau executive director Vincent Hilomen tackled climate change and fisheries.

The wholistic approach also included disaster resiliency since the aquatic industry is one of the most affected by disasters and climate change. This was presented by DOST Undersecretary for disaster risk reduction Renato Solidum. 

“At the end of the two-day event, there will be a consolidation of all discussions and recommendations that will be presented to policy and decision makers for further consideration in line with the national agenda of the government towards achieving the sustainable development goals,” the DOST statement concluded.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Boosting the Philippine Salt Industry

During ancient times, salt was equivalent in its weight in gold. The Romans paid their legions in the form of salt, that is why we have the word “salary” today. Salt was not just a flavor enhancer, it was a means of preserving meat and fish before the age of refrigeration. It was also used to clean food since bacteria and viruses cannot live in a salt environment.

The means to get salt then was to mine it from underground. That was why the term “back to the salt mines” became synonymous with hard work. Now salt is not only mined, it is harvested in salt beds wherever there are geographical conditions that allow for it. Salt harvested from the sea also contains iodine that is not present in salt that is mined. Iodine is a much needed nutrient for the human body.

The Philippines, being an archipelago is abundant with the geographical means to harvest salt. In this endeavor, Rep. Josephine Sato asked the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to create research and development programs that will increase the income and productivity of salt farmers.

“It is time we put more science to salt production. We are rich in saltwater, but we need to get a clear and more accurate picture of how the government can help boost the industry. This is where research and development should come in,” said Rep. Sato who hails from Occidental Mindoro.

Occidental Mindoro accounts for 40% of the Philippines’ salt production. The DOST is active in assisting her province’s salt farmers but she also sought that salt production be increased in all other regions in the country. This can be done systematic assessment of the salt industry, identification of the proper technology and much needed technology transfer.

The DOST can assist in modernizing salt production with regards to new technology in crystallizing salt that will increase salt production and income by salt farmers.

Budget allocation can also be streamlined and enhanced so as to optimize productivity as well as legislation to promote and protect the industry.

“Being an island archipelago surrounded with abundant saltwater, our country has the potential of developing a dollar-earning industry through science and technology,” Rep. Sato said.

The government can be instrumental in offering production incentives and help the industry in marketing and distribution. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

PHL Pineapple Production Boosted

The Philippines is the 2nd largest pineapple producer in the world. Philippine pineapples are exported to China, Japan, South Korea, Middle East (Sharjah, Jabel Ali, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait), New Zealand, Hong Kong, Qatar, Canada, Guam, Russia and Germany. 

Currently the largest plantations are found in Mindanao run by two transnational corporations. These are the biggest contract growing plantations in the country. The non-contract growers are found in Cavite and Camarines Sur.

Del Monte Pacific Ltd. (DMPL) is one of the two transnational corporations with the biggest plantations and it is planning to increase production by one million tons in the next five years. The target for 2017 is 750,000 metric tons.

 “We continue to expand our production facility. We will do 750,000 metric tons (of pineapple),”  said DMPL chief operating officer Luis Alejandro during the  listing of the company’s dollar-denominated preferred shares on the Philippine Stock Exchange last April 7, 2017.

Initially, DMPL’s Cagayan de Oro plantation was at only 23,000 but has now increased to 450,000 metric tons. 

Pineapple production at DMPL’s Cagayan de Oro plantation has grown from 23,000 MT to 450,000 MT.

Aside from the Philippines, Del Monte intends to increase its production in the US, Asia-Pacific and Latin America.

"There is a huge demand now for fresh pineapples in China prompting agribusiness companies based in Mindanao to expand their capacities," disclosed Francisco A. Ramos, the agriculture marketing assistance service director.

According to the Philippine Postharvest Industry, a huge percent of total production is lost due to damage sustained by crops during hauling, transporting, and rat infestation. Other major problems facing the Philippine pineapple industry are the high cost for sorting, unstable prices during trading, the seasonality of harvest, and the limited extent of village-level processing activities.

The plantations in Mindanao account for 90% of Philippine pineapple production.

Seaweed Production to Increase

The Philippines used to be the number 1 producer of seaweed or carrageenan since the early 1990s. Seaweed farms ranged from Northern Luzon to Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. The sea between Cebu and Bohol had seaweed farms in the middle between the islands.

Seaweed production was hampered starting in the early 2000s when funding from financial institutions shrank. The Development Bank of the Philippines (DPB) with its Export Finance Unit used to finance seaweed farms and processors based on Letters of Credit. The dynamics of financing and economic policy took its toll when Indonesia overtook the Philippines in carrageenan output in 2008.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) aims to increase output by 5% annually from 2017 to 2022.

“We want to bring back the country as the world’s leading producer of seaweeds such as Euchema and Kappaphycus,” National Seaweed coordinator Irma Ortiz disclosed.

Limited access to financing and credit, dependence on just supplying raw dried seaweed, stunted research and development that benefits seaweed production, lack of market promotion on seaweed products, poor aquaculture support infrastructures and mechanisms and climate resilient technology are cited for the decline in seaweed production. 

BFAR intends to meet these challenges via a 3 point program.

1. Training for seaweed farmers
2. Climate resilient species propagation
3. Training in entrepreneurship for farmers with the aim of being Export Champions

Carrageenan has also been developed into organic fertilizers for rice fields. Now, carrageenan are planned to be used for animal feeds.

This will boost the demand for seaweeds products making the sector more productive and adding to the income of the farmers.

The seaweeds for animal feed come from Pangasinan, La Union and Ilocos Norte. The by products are already being used in the United States and Canada.

Last year, the country’s seaweed production slid 10.3 percent to 1.4 million MT due to the unavailability of planting materials of Cottonii variety, occurrence of disease, decreasing price from traders and high cost of planting materials.

As with regards to the environment, seaweeds contribute to carbon dioxide capture and oxygen generation. The presence of abundant seaweeds reduces organisms that infest other marine life.

Seaweeds are used as extenders, suspenders in beverages and is also utilized for bio-medical requirements

Climate Change Resilient Hybrid Rice

The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change. Annually, an average of 20 tropical cyclones affect the country making floods and landslides a yearly event. Owing to its geography, the most productive areas are of course the plains that is also flood plains that floods exacerbate due to the deforested mountains surrounding them.

Its agricultural sector is the worst hit by these climate related phenomena such as severe floods and periods of drought. Rice production is thus one of the hard hit sectors in agriculture. 

The traditional varieties of rice planted can no longer cope with the change in climactic and environmental conditions and the losses suffered by the farmers themselves only contributes to their economic distress. 

Current rice varieties suffer due to lack of irrigation or floods that reduce rice ready for harvest reduced to black grains. By then it is already too late. The farmers endure losses and national rice production, rice being a staple in the Philippines critically affected. This result in importation of rice that also affects the balance of payments of the country notwithstanding food security for the entire population. 

Scientific and technological advances call for a rice variety that is resilient to these factors. Taipan Brand Farm Inc. recently launched PAC 801, a hybrid rice seed from Advanta Seed International (ASI), in several provinces across the country.  This is part of TBFI and ASI’s commitment to providing high quality agricultural seeds to the Philippines.

These hybrid rice varieties were distributed in in Luzon, Occidental Mindoro, Bicol, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, Pangasinan, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija, Leyte and Iloilo, Lanao del Norte, Agusan del Sur and North Cotabato.

TBFI disclosed the advantages of the hybrid rice variety PAC 801 Hybrid Rice. These are:

1. Adaptable to wet and dry seasons. The potential of 220 cavans per hectare even through all weather conditions.
2. Longer and slender grains adding to quality

These went along with knowledge dissemination on seedling care, water management, pest and infestation management and even harvesting techniques.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Food Lane Project in Metro Manila

The traffic situation in Metro Manila has gone from bad to worse. Billions of pesos are lost because of traffic in terms of lost man – hours at work, fuel wastage and reduced ability to transfer goods and service. 

The economic effect also include the transport of perishable agricultural and aquacultural goods. The spoilage of these products are due to increased transport time as a result of traffic.

In order to address this problem, a memorandum of agreement has been signed by the Department of Agriculture (DA), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Philippine National Police (PNP) and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)  establishing food lanes for carriers of these products in Metro Manila.

These food lanes will be located along designated thoroughfares, streets and highways in Metro Manila.

 According to Department of Agriculture Secretary  Emmanuel Pinol, these designated food lanes aims to ensure efficient delivery of agri-fishery commodities, reduce post-harvest losses and transportation costs through eliminating additional fees and unnecessary checkpoints.

“The project is in line with President Duterte’s campaign against corruption and kotong cops by ensuring the elimination of additional fees and checkpoints which actually add to the cost carried by farmers and fisherfolk,” Secretary PiƱol disclosed.

The memorandum of agreement among the different government agencies will accredit transport firms, individuals and companies that transport farm and fishery products to enable them to use the food lanes and will be exempted from the currently implemented truck ban.

The Bureau of Animal Industry will register carriers and transports of livestock, poultry and meat products as a requirement for food lane accreditation.

Current data cited that the project will decrease post-harvest losses and other informal transport costs.

There is a need to institutionalize distribution of goods from production sites to the markets in the National Capital Region and adjacent regions.  

The DILG will work with local government units so as the food lane project be given proper cooperation between the national and local governments.

The agri and aqua products covered by the project include fresh fruits and vegetables, livestock and poultry and by-products, eggs, fresh and frozen meat, fish and marine products, processed food products, feeds, fertilizers, seeds among others.

Kalinga Coffee Industry gets Boost from the World Bank

The Philippine Coffee industry started in 1740 when the Spanish colonists planted coffee beans from Mexico. The first coffee plantations were located in Lipa, Batangas. The coffee plants were then introduced in other adjacent areas such as Cavite.

By then, the Philippines was the 4th largest coffee producer in the world. When coffee rust infested the plantations in Brazil and Africa, between 1886 to 1888, the Philippines was the only source of coffee in the entire world. Lipa, Batangas was then the coffee capital of the Philippines.

But the coffee rust infestation reached the country by 1891 and devastated the huge plantations and caused the coffee industry to collapse since coffee farmers resorted to planting new crops. 

It was only in the 1950s that coffee plantations started to recover when Americans introduced new strains of coffee that was resistant to pests and coffee rust. But by then, the Philippines, once ranked at No. 4 has now slipped to No. 110 in worldwide coffee production.

Coffee has been diversified into other regions in the country and is no longer concentrated in the Southern Tagalog Region. One of these regions that plant coffee is the Northern Luzon province of Kalinga.

With the aim of assisting and boosting the coffee industry in the province, the World Bank (WB) has identified five coffee cooperatives that will be the recipient of Php14.8 million in financial assistance.

The five cooperatives are the Dupligan Farmers Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Tanudan Savings and Lending Coop, Mananig Multi-Purpose Coop, Gawidan Malin-awa Marketing Coop, and Nambucayan Agricultural Cooperative.

The P14.8-million project cost was approved by the Kalinga Coffee Cluster (KCC) as sub-project under the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP)’s enterprise development component that covers production, pre-processing and consolidation of green coffee beans and unroasted coffee.

This is also done in cooperation and coordination with the national government, provincial government that also contributed into providing the funds for the project. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Land Conversion Leads to Rural Poverty

The Philippines is reliant on its agricultural sector even if it has a vibrant BPO industry and Services sector. The Agricultural sector accounts for 11% of the country’s GDP and employs 30% of the workforce.

The country is the No. 8 producer of rice in the world, the top coconut producer in the world, the No. 1 pineapple producer and one of the largest sugar producers in the world.

But the reality is that the Philippines is the No. 1 importer of rice globally. 60% of its population lives in the rural areas where agriculture is the main industry. Also, the rural areas account for60% of national poverty incidence.

One of the reasons for shrinking agricultural productivity and its inability to generate jobs in the rural sector is conversion of agricultural lands to other uses. This is brought about by population pressure for more residential areas but also a skewed economic policy that works to the detriment of the agricultural sector.

According to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), between 1988, when the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) took effect, and 2016, a total of 97,592.5 hectares of agricultural land were approved for conversion to nonagricultural purposes. This is comparable to the combined size of the National Capital Region (NCR) and Metro Cebu.

There are also pending applications for further land conversions. It should be noted that the CARL has failed to alleviate the plight of farmers. The law has a poor support structure to the farmer beneficiaries of the law so that in order to be able to plant their crops, the farmers would then get financing with their land as collateral for the farm inputs. But the economies of scale militated towards the farmers losing money I the transaction and their lands will be forfeited by the lending institutions. 

This led to the lending institutions being awash with real estate assets but the rules of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has strict liquidity level requirements for these institutions. In order to meet those requirements, the institutions had to liquidate the assets and a big portion of these lands were then converted for other uses.

The DAR is now contemplating a two-year ban on land conversions. This will arrest the shrinking of lands devoted to agriculture and together with a comprehensive agricultural policy from the Department of Agriculture, it is hope that the agricultural industry will be revived and will be able to be competitive. This will result in the “inclusion” of the rural poor I the economic development of the country.

(To be continued…) 


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