Monday, May 29, 2017

Bulacan farmers inch closer to rice self-sufficiency

The Duterte administration’s goal of hitting 100 percent rice self-sufficiency level in two years, to push the Philippines to reclaim its status as rice exporter, is now a step closer to attainment.

A recent partnership among the Department of Science and Technology Regional Office No. 3 (DOST III), the Philippine Sino Center for Agricultural Technologies (PhilSCAT), the Local Government of Pulilan (Pulilan LGU) and the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit No. 3 (DA RFU III) just might have proven that such a target could be realized.

The team believes that achieving higher rice yields is possible given the correct seed variety and quality, proper plant spacing, correct fertilizer timing and rates, and appropriate irrigation application.  That is the reason why the farmers who participated in a recent project were convinced to migrate from direct/broadcast seeding to mechanized transplanting; from using the usual inbred seeds to hybrid rice seeds, and from their old practice of applying four to six bags of fertilizer to the more intensive eight to 10 bags of fertilizer per hectare.

Under the umbrella of the DOST- Community Empowerment through Science and Technology project “Effective Translation of Science and Technology Intervention for Agricultural Productivity: The Case of Rice and Mango in Pulilan, Bulacan”, PhilSCAT director  Emmanuel Sicat who provided technical services, requested for hybrid rice seeds from DA RFU III Andrew Villacorta last year.

PhilSCAT immediately deployed its technical team led by  Carlos Abon and conducted trainings on seedbed preparation using double mulching technique in December last year, and use of mechanized transplanter in January this year.

The carageenan plant growth promoter developed by Philippine Nuclear Research Institute and funded by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development, both of the DOST, was likewise sprayed at 14, 28 and 42 days after transplanting.

The 25 Pulilan farmers-participants in this endeavor were closely guided and monitored by the joint DOST-PhilSCAT team. 

Last April 18,  the farmers witnessed the combined harvester  churn out 177 cavans of Mestiso 78 palay (also known as Long Ping 937) at 70 kg per cavan from the 1.25-hectare farm of Lito Calderon.

The harvest reached 12.39 tons or 9.9 tons per hectare.  This year’s harvest is almost double compared with last year’s harvest of 6.597 tons of PSB Rc 218.

Meanwhile, Ponciano Mendoza harvested 140 cavans of SL8-H at 55 kg per cavan from his 7,500 square meter farm.  This is equivalent to 10.27 tons (or 205 cavans) per hectare which,  according to him, is almost double compared with his harvest last year of 80 cavans.

Rosalina de Guzman, also a farmer-participant, said: “ Because of the carageenan plant growth promoter, I actually had a very abundant harvest and I was able to save from fertilizer costs.

The initiative was spurred by the personal experience of Sicat himself, an agricultural engineer and a rice farmer, who was inspired by his harvest of at least 200 cavans per hectare in his rice fields at the Science City of Munoz, Nueva Ecija in the 2015 and 2016 dry seasons.

After his abundant harvest, he was challenged by Mayor Montejo to help the Pulilan rice farmers achieve the same successful harvest.


Mobile Technology Helping Filipino Farmers

Grameen Foundation initiated FarmerLink back in 2016. This was in response with the needs of the Filipino farmer in coping with natural and man-made disasters that affects their livelihood and farm operations. This will enable the Filipino farmer to manage his farm and allow new techniques to be learned and applied to local conditions.

The backdrop to this was the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 when 33 million coconut trees were destroyed and severely affected the lives of over 1 million families that depended on the coconut industry. 

Almost at the same time, the coconut industry was also being devastated by the cocolisap infestation that affected coconut trees from Luzon all the way to Mindanao.  The infestation transcended both the past and present administrations. This was compounded by another naturally caused blow to the industry namely, a very strong El Nino phenomenon  during 2016 that resulted in low yields throughout the entire agricultural sector because of the droughts brought by it.  

This has brought to the fore another evolution that has been increasing in pace. Technology has grown by leaps and bounds and it is not only in finance, marketing and the manufacturing industry that mobile apps have found its place in solutions. The current problems in the country’s agricultural sector also presented opportunities for mobile technology to be a big part of the solution. 

FarmerLink aims to provide small farmers mobile based solutions for their farming operations by providing information to farmers at different points during farming operations from production to financial and even market access.  

An example of FarmerLink mobile solutions is an app that provides farmers with information with regards to threats posed by climate related diseases and pest infestations. This helps them control any outbreak with regards to the vulnerability of their farms and crops. This is enabled by the combination of satellite data and farm data collected by field agents using mobile technology equipment.

FarmerLink also provides an Early Warning System for extreme weather conditions that will enable farmers to act proactively to real time weather advisories to protect their crops and their families. This will make the Filipino farmer more resilient and with its full range of services that includes customized farming techniques, and financial advice with regards to marketing of products.

Posted by The Mailman 5/29/2017 12:00 PM

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hard Look at PH Agri Policy

The past few weeks had rice importation, rice prices, rice availability and rice self-sufficiency always in the front pages and headlines of the news.

Rice has been the issue with regards to politics, the economy, social and cultural narratives of this country. Whether it be food prices all the way to land reform and the insurgency. Rice is connected to all of them.

Even all the way back during  the time of President Quezon, rice has become the “political crop” of the country. It was even a factor in the First Quarter Storm when floods ravaged Central Luzon and student volunteers saw their condition which led them to activism.

The timeworn mantra of Rice Self Sufficiency is still being bandied about for political purposes. 
Rice policy does not equate to Agrarian Policy and National Food Security.  The more we adhere to that the more the agricultural sector and the rural population will suffer.

The fact that Philippine geography militates against rice planting as the principal crop. The Philippines does not have the Mekong River Delta System that Vietnam and Thailand is blessed with. Their vast plains and natural irrigation is a competitive edge with regards to cost of production.

The current cost of production for 1 kilo of palay is now between Php16 – Php20 pesos while Vietnam has a cost of production of 6.54 per kilo of palay. That make locally grown rice uncompetitive. The price makes it unaffordable to even the farmers themselves. This is both anti-Filipno and anti-poor.

Insisting on the National Food Authority have the sole authority to import rice makes it only worse. The subsidies are all sourced from taxes. The Filipino gets to pay for expensive rice and gets taxed for it too!

The solution is to re-orient our agricultural policy so that the Filipino farmer will plant crops that will give him economic relief and higher revenues. It makes no sense asking the farmer to plant rice and then still remain poor. 

High quality charcoal produced from bamboo

The Department of Science and Technology-Forest Products Research and Development Institute (DOST-FPRDI) has developed a charcoaling kiln to produce high quality charcoal from bamboo for industrial use.

Under the “High Quality Charcoal from Bamboo for Industrial Uses” project monitored and funded by the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD), a team of FPRDI researchers led by engineer Belen Bisana innovated on an existing bamboo charcoaling kiln.

The bamboo charcoaling kiln can also produce pyroligneous liquor (PL) or wood vinegar recovered from the destructive distillation of bamboo when it is converted into charcoal.
The technology for making high quality charcoal and PL is deployed at the CS First Green Agri-Industrial Development Inc.

Bisana explained that when bamboo is used as a raw material, the resulting charcoal can perform like activated carbon. 

The improved charcoaling kiln can yield 34.56-44.50 percent of charcoal, compared with the traditionally used pit, drum, and brick kilns, which can only yield 25-31 percent.

To monitor and evaluate the project, the Forestry and Environment Research Division of PCAARRD conducted a two-day site visit in Bayambang, Pangasinan. 

Classified under PCAARRD’s strategic research and development banner program, the developed technology is envisioned to alleviate poverty by creating employment in rural areas. The next phase of the project is the development of products out of bamboo charcoal and bamboo vinegar.

DA to Boost PH Dairy Industry

The Philippines is not a major dairy producing country. 95% of the milk consumed in the country is imported. 

The Philippines imported 453,000 MT of dairy valued at $808 million in 2016. Thus, the inadequacy is glaring with regards to the demand of a growing population. This also affect the nutritional requirements of Filipinos especially children. Statistics point out that “stunting” among Filipino children is widespread and this will affect their physical health. This is also crucial in brain development.

To address the issue, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is creating a 10 year masterplan for the Philippine Dairy industry. This will lessen importation and at the same time mitigating the impact of insufficient nutrients in the daily fare of the Filipino.

“The local industry could hardly supply five percent of the milk and dairy requirements of the country, 95 percent of the milk and dairy products consumed by Filipinos is imported. Until today, no such industry blueprint has been designed, formulated and implemented,”  DA Secretary Many Pinol disclosed.

Aside from insufficient livestock for dairy production, the current system is even ridden with corruption according to the DA Secretary. This includes overpricing of dairy livestock and genetically inferior livestock imported into the country. These resulted in low production of milk.

“I am urging our farmers to organize and consolidate their efforts so that government could easily support them. We will also provide municipal multiplier farms and learning centers nationwide and financial assistance for feed mills,” said the DA Secertary.

One of the solutions is to have a national registry program that will track the genetic lineage of animals used in the dairy industry that includes, cows, carabaos and even goats.

A measly increase of only 4 percent was registered in dairy production for the year 2016 at 21,160 metric tons as compared to the statistics stated above as per Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) figures. In terms of value, dairy registered the highest increase under the livestock sector at 10 percent to P715 million.

Currently the Philippines sources its dairy requirements from Most of the imports were from New Zealand with 39 percent of the total and US (24 percent) and Australia and Germany.

DOST Intends to Boost PH Corn Production

Corn is the number 2 staple of the Philippine population. According to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Not only that but corn is also the prime component of animal feeds that the livestock industry uses.

In this regard, DOST Region 2 is endorsing the establishment of a Research and Development Institution for Philippine corn.

Introduced by the Spaniards from Latin America during the colonial period, corn has managed to be prevalently cultivated throughout the country because of soil conditions and climate.

“Corn is the second most important national food crop just behind rice. We have the Philrice or the Philippine Rice Research Institute despite us already being home to the IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) but surprisingly, we do not have a PhilCorn or a RDI (R&D institution) specifically for corn,” according to Engr. Sancho Mabborang, DOST Region 2 Director.

.Engr. Mabborang added that other Philippie crops such as coconut, tobacco, sugarcane, abaca, and even livestock raising have their own R&D Institutes already.

Cagayan province in Region 2 is among the top corn producing areas in the country together with Isabela province which is considered as the Corn Capital of the Philippines.

That was the reason given for the establishment of a Research and Development Institution for corn by DOST Region 2.

Isabela province, being the country’s top corn producer is the logical choice to be the location of the proposed corn institution. The Isabela State University or the CVResearch Consortium of the Department of Agriculture can be the main office of the R&D institution.

But branches and/or satellite offices can be established since corn is widely cultivated in the country.

Along with the proposal is therequired funding of Php400 million as start up for operations and administration of the proposed PhilCorn Institute. This will unify, coordinate, fund and implement all projects and programs related to corn farming and systems.

This will also allow technology transfer and technology sharing to enhance and further develop the resources needed by poor farming communities so as to increase yeild and income. 

Sen. Grace Poe Encourages “Agripreneurship”

The Philippines has a population that is dependent on the agricultural sector for its livelihood. 60% of the Philippine population lives in the rural areas where the prevalence of poverty is the highest. The only way to bring inclusive growth t many Filipinos is by boosting the agriculture industry.

Sen. Grace Poe noted that the average age of the Filipino farmer is 57 years old. “If no one would go farming anymore in the next generation, where shall we get our food and how about the food security in our country?,” Sen. Poe said during the 17th Mango and Bamboo Festival helt at San Carlos City, Pangasinan last April 25, 2017.

Sen. Poe said that we need to raise a new generation of farmers that will employ modern technology and boost crop yields. This also dovetails with her encouraging farmers to be “agripreneurs” themselves so as to earn more revenues for themselves.

The festival was a good way to promote farming and agricultural ingenuity and Sen. Poe cited San Carlos City as one of the primary  trading centers in bamboo products as well as one of the top producers of the “Kalabaw” mango variety.

In order to provide the necessary help to agriculture, Sen. Poe has filed the Corporative Farming bill (Senate Bill 341) which seeks to boost public-private partnerships to enhance productivity in the agriculture sector,  as well as the proposed Integrated Urban Agriculture Act that aims to promote food production in urban areas, and the Credit Assistance to Farmers and Fisherfolks which seeks to amend the Agricultural Land Reform Code by requiring the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) to reserve 10 percent of its loan portfolio for agricultural projects.

The livelihood of the people in the rural areas will benefit if such assistance is provided particularly to small farmers and micro, small and medium-scale enterprises. 

Sen. Poe stated that “This, my citymates, is what I want for our country: that all shall benefit from the resources of the country, all are robust and healthy and everybody is capable to achieve his or her dream because the government is concerned and gives what’s due them”.

Only if the rural population have gainful employment and livelihood in the agricultural sector will there be tru inclusivity in the growth of the economy and will drastically reduce the incidence of poverty nationwide aside from giving national food security.

DA Launches Farm Assistance Program

Farm inputs being distributed during SAAD Launch

In fulfillment of his campaign promise of helping the farmers of Mindanao, President Rodrigo Duterte through the Department of Agriculture (DA) launched the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) program.

This was launched by Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and Agriculture Assistant Secretary Lerey Panes jointly launched in Buluan, Maguindanao.

In acknowledging that agricultural productivity goes hand in hand with peace and order especially in conflict torn areas where the ordinary farmers bear the brunt of violence and aggression, SAAD is the answer. This program seeks to address poverty and underdevelopment in rural areas.

Included in the SAAD is the funding for socio-economic interventions worth Php150 million will be made available to farmers in Mindanao. According to Governor Mangudadatu, this was also a way of President Duterte to give thanks for the overwhelming support given by the people of Mindanao during the 2016 elections wherein Duterte swamped his rivals.

The SAAD launch was also attended by DA Region 12 Director Milagros Casis and DA officials from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). 

The event also included the turn-over of farm inputs and farmer beneficiaries from Maguindanao. 

“We are thankful to President Duterte and Agriculture Secretary Manny PiƱol for this good tiding,” Governor Mangudadatu said.

The SAAD program include technical support, educational interventions and socio-economic packages that will enable farmers to boost their production and crop yields.

Educational interventions include training in crop diversification so that farmers can supplement and increase their income by planting diverse crops aside from their traditional crops with proper environmental management practices.

The SAAD program is also being implemented in Apayao, Western Samar, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, North Cotabato, Negros Oriental, Zamboanga del Norte, Lanao del Sur and Sarangani.

In ethnic Maranaw, “saad” means equitable distribution”.  

Board of Investments Approves Coco Processing Plant

The Philippines is now the top coconut producer in the world. It has overtaken Indonesia in the production of coconuts. Coconut has a variety of uses ranging from food, cosmetics, industrial use and even pharmaceuticals.

While the Philippines continues t be the top coconut producer in the world for almost a century, the industry has been beset by problems ranging from ageing coconut trees to systemic industry uncertainty brought about by the Coco Levy issue for 4 decades now. This is also compounded by 2 years of Coco-Lisap infestation that has spread from Luzon all the way to the coconut plantations in Mindanao.

In order to optimize the coconut industry, efforts are being undertaken to enhance processing of coconut products within the country itself. This entails the creation and establishment of coconut milling and processing plants.

In this regard, the Board of Investments (BOI) approved a Php391 million coconut processing plant which is a project of the Ahya Coco Organic Food Manufacturing Corporation. 

“With growing demand for coconut products abroad, the country, as one the world’s largest coconut producers, hopes to address such demand,” Trade Undersecretary and BoI Managing Head Ceferino Rodolfo said.

The project is included in the exports category of the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP). This is in line with the continued leadership of the country in coconut exports worldwide. 

Ahya is engaged in the production of canned coconut milk with an annual output of 7,286 metric tons annually, canned coconut water that has an annual production of 6,970 metric tons, Virgin Coconut Milk that accounts for 485 metric tons per year and coconut flour with a yearly production of 1,061.  

Ahya’s main source of coconuts are from the coconut farmers of Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley and Davao del Sur. Production is geared towards exports to the US, Europe and China where demand has continued to increase.

The company sources its coconut requirements from the farmers in Davao del Norte, Compostela Valley Province and Davao del Sur. It will export 100 percent of its products to the United States, China and Europe.

Exports of coconut products amounted to $1.41 billion in 2016, a .4-percent increase from $1.4 billion in 2015, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Research by DLSU to Fight Cacao Pests


The Philippines has the optimum soil conditions and climate to cultivate cacao. The country exports and imports cacao and cacao products which includes chocolate confectionery containing cocoa in various forms and sizes, other food preparations containing cocoa in various forms and sizes, other than chocolate confectionery containing cocoa in various forms and sizes, and other than chocolate confectionery containing cocoa in tablets or pastilles.

Total imports of cocoa and cocoa products in 2012 amounted to 3,662 tons, with CIF value of almost US$ 12 million. On the other hand, total exports in 2012 is 512 tons, with a total FOB value of US$ 1.8 million.

Cacao is produced by small farms and then supplies these to processors and manufacturers. The Department of Agriculture (DA) with its Philippine Cacao Roadmap estimates that by 2020, the Philippines can produce 100,000 Metric Tons.

But the nascent cacao industry is beset by problems caused by diseases and insect infestations that accounts for 30 to 40 percent in losses. This was disclosed by the International Cocoa Organization.

De La Salle University (DLSU) is leading the research in addressing the concerns of the industry. DLSU will explore, identify, mass rear, and release biological control agents against cacao pod borer (CPB) and cacao mirid bug (CMB).

Cacao beans become malformed because CPB feeds on the cacao bean pulp that also results on the bens being undersized. The results of severe infestation includes small flat and stuck together beans, yellowing, uneven or premature ripening of pods.

Funding for the project is being provided by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development.

Traditional cures for infestation has been chemical pesticides but in this case biological controls will be utilized in arresting the infestations.

With biological control, natural predators to the insects will be introduced, the use of natural parasites to the pests as well as other natural bio-controls.

The project will cover Quezon, Bicol and Davao, regions which reported infestations. 


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