Wednesday, October 25, 2017

DA to boost bangus production

The government needs to increase its budget to build more hatcheries nationwide to sustain the country’s demand for milkfish, the Department of Agriculture said.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said at least P30 million is needed to put up more than 30 hatcheries all over the country to increase local production.

Over the last two decades, the Philippines has become heavily dependent on imports of fry from Indonesia and Taiwan.

“We need at least 1.5 billion fry to just sustain the industry and more than two billion for it to grow. With the existing three hatcheries, we are barely producing 30 million fry a year which means that almost all our fry are being imported,” BFAR-National Inland Fisheries Technology Center chief Westly Rosario told reporters.

“But, the problem is imported fry has a survival rate of just 20 percent while locally-bred produce in our hatcheries is 80 percent,” he said.

The P30 million budget would be used for satellite hatcheries and the impact of the program can already be seen three years after.

However, this plan is unlikely to materialize anytime soon as the DA’s proposed budget for 2018 got a huge slash.

“Budget for technical centers has been lower. For the whole NIFTC, we will just be getting about P33 million and there are a lot of species. For milkfish alone, less than P3 million has been allocated,” Rosario said.

Studies showed that 20 years from now, the local demand for food would not come from crops, livestock and poultry, but from aquaculture.

“We have a huge coastal area compared to our land area therefore, that’s where we should focus. We need to support our aquaculture programs,” Rosario said.

Milkfish production managed to bounce back and record a nine percent increase to 110,000 metric tons in the second quarter, 99 percent of which comprised aquaculture.

The increase was attributed to improved stocking density from brackish water fishponds in Pampanga due to availability of quality milkfish fry, as well as bigger sizes of milkfish harvested.

By: Louise Maureen Simeon


Mango Industry to be Boosted by DA

Philippine Mangoes

In recent years, the production of Philippine mangoes continued to decline. Before mango production was at 1 million metric tons (MT) but currently, it has declined to as low as 600,000 MT. Mangoes have been one of the premium agricultural exports of the Philippines.

This was brought about by the infestation of the cecid fly that affected the top mango producing areas of the country.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is addressing the situations in the mango plantations starting in Davao del Sur.

The DA will commence with the rehabilitation of 110 hectares in the Davao region. In addressing the situation, the DA will be providing foliar and granulated fertilizers, flower inducers, insecticides, fungicides and even plastic crates to spur mango production.

DA High-Value Crops Development Program Regional Coordinator Melani Provideo stated, “The unproductive trees that will be rehabilitated should be at least 10 years old and above with location within the mango cluster areas.” 

“Farmers who intend to avail themselves of rehabilitation assistance must be accredited members of farmers organization or cooperative identified by the local government units,” Provideo also added.

Attendance of training will be required for the farmer-recipients of the program and the adoption of recommended technologies on mango production is another requirement. This includes appropriate fertilization and pruning and good agricultural practices.

Mango export volume has declined by more than 30% according to the Philippine Mango Exporters Foundation Inc. 

The DA is formulating a five-year master plan for the mango industry.

“We used to produce one million metric tons, now we are below 600,000 MT. It’s been going down 15 percent every year. Other countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Mexico are already filling up the demand even with their less premium mangoes,” the Philippine Mango Exporters Foundation Inc. said.

WB Report: The Key to Mindanao Agri Growth: Connectivity

Agriculture in Mindanao

The infrastructure needed to link farm produce to markets in Mindanao has always been the bane of its development. Rich in natural resources, the infrastructure needed for harnessing its potential has been sorely lacking.

Way back in the Commonwealth era, the infrastructure plan was a combination of roads and railways. Unfortunately, WWII occurred and the resources needed for infrastructure development was siphoned off to rebuilding the country after the war.

Succeeding administrations have failed to address the situation and the current infrastructure in Mindanao has hampered its growth.

The World Bank in its Philippine Economic update emphasized the need to address the limited connectivity between the farmers to the markets. This will not only spur domestic development but also tap the foreign market potential for Mindanao’s agricultural products.

“Farmers are disconnected or misconnected with technical service providers, agro-enterprises, markets, and consumers, a problem that has multiple consequences. Many roads are in bad condition or congested, resulting in rejected agricultural produce, especially perishable commodities like bananas and other fruits and vegetables,” the World Bank report stated.

A seamless logistic network from farm to markets will require investments in infrastructures from the village to major roads. This will also induce more competition in the domestic shipping industry and with the new cabotage laws, the transport via domestic shipping will add to the fast and efficient conveyance of trade and merchandise. Port processes for import and export must also be streamlined.

“Lowering logistics costs would significantly benefit Mindanao’s agriculture value chains. An efficient logistics system is essential if Mindanao’s potential of becoming a global supplier of basic and value-added produce is to be realized,” the report noted.

The World Bank said there is an opportunity to expand the production of exportable agriculture products: aquatic, coffee and coconut products.

This involves linking farmers more closely with enterprises, as it is primarily agribusinesses that have the opportunity to differentiate or diversify product lines,” it added.

Increased productivity will reduce the prices of food and other commodities and improve the competitiveness of the agricultural sector.

PH Scientists Awarded by Japanese Scientific Forum

Philippine Nuclear Research Institute

A team of Filipino scientists that developed the Plant Food Supplement (PFS) via the using radiation technology was awarded the  2017 Excellent Research Team of the Year Award by the Japan-based Forum for Nuclear Cooperation in Asia (FNCA).

The team from the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) garnered the award. 

The potential of the project in spurring the development of Philippine agriculture towards national food security was recognized by the Japanese government. Also, the project can help mitigate the effects of El Niño and climate change that ravage farmlands in the countryside.

The research team is led by Career Scientist Dr. Lucille Abad who heads DOST-PNRI’s Chemistry Research Section. With just 3.2 liters per hectare of water mixed with the right proportion of the PFS, the formulation was proven effective in increasing the yield of rice, mung bean, and other crops by over 20 percent. 

With the application of the PFS in field tests, it was determined that PFS enhanced resistance against tungro bacilliform virus and bacterial leaf blight. Further, fields sprayed with PFS had higher survival rate after a violent storm compared with nearby fields that were not treated with PFS. 

Launched in November 2015,  DOST started the widespread testing of PFS in Luzon, Panay Island, Zamboanga, and Davao. The experiments showed proof the advantages and benefits of PFS.

PFS is developed from carrageenan, a common industrial ingredient made from seaweeds. Subjecting to radiation the polymers of carrageenan it formed natural bioactive agents that can improve the health and increase the growth and yield of various crops.

Carrageenan has already been used as organic fertilizer in rice crops before but this is the first time that radiation exposure was utilized in enhancing its potentials. The carrageenan used for the PFS was irradiated at PNRI’s  Electron Beam Irradiation Facility in Diliman, Quezon City, the first and only facility of its kind in the country dedicated to semi-commercial services.

Eventually, several tons of PFS from PNRI was deployed for field test purposes and these were applied to thousands of hectares of rice fields in selected provinces of Regions 2 and 3, specifically in Tuguegarao, Cagayan, Ilagan, Isabela and in Pulilan, Bulacan.

Php30 million for Iloilo Agri Finance from DA

Dumangas, Iloilo. Photo courtesy of SEAFDEC

The Production Loan Easy Access Program has been made available to the Municipality of Dumangas and Passi City as part of the efforts of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in further spurring the development of agriculture in these localities. 

A Php30 million loan fund and Php10million loan fund for Dumangas and Passi City respectively will be made available for farmers and fishermen for the localities of Iloilo is expected wherein farmers and fishermen will be able to get financing amounting to Phpo5,000 to Php25,000 with no collateral requirements and will have a payable term of two years.

According to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol, the lending program will be available through local cooperatives and rural banks and the maturity will depend on the kind of agricultural commodity.

This will reduce the dependency of farmers on government subsidies and dole outs, and contribute to the administration’s target of reducing national poverty by the year 2022.

A grains processing complex for the milling, packaging, and marketing of Passi City’s produce, as well as a tissue culture laboratory and organic fertilizer processing facility, is also planned by the DA.

In Dumangas , 500 hectares of abandoned fishponds  wll be converted into mangrove replanting areas that will benefit  one of the richest oyster production areas of Panay Island. Protection of to fishponds, oyster farms and hatcheries is being backed by the DA to protect it against the construction of an environmentally and ecologically unsafe fuel depot in Dumangas. 

“I already signed an endorsement of the BFAR position paper to Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor. While the town is interested in inviting investors to come to the town, we should respect the position of the people who depend on the sea for their livelihood,” DA Secretary Pinol stated. 

Avian Influenza Outbreak: Not Likely from Migratory Birds

The recent outbreak of Avian Influenza in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija was not likely brought by migratory birds. This was disclosed by Carlo Custodio, a consultant of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENR-BMB) said. 

In a roundtable discussion organized by the National Research Council last month, it was stated that migratory birds should not be automatically blamed for the spread of Avian Influenza. 

“Avian influenza in the Philippines is not traceable to migratory birds. Do not blame the migratory birds as they are victims, too (of the infection),”  Custodio said. 

Entitled “Avian Influenza – How do we Prevent its Entry and Spread: Policy Implications Towards Early Detection, Management and Mitigation,” the forum was held on last month at the Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros, Manila.

The first and last recorded incident of Avian Influenza was in 2006 and yet migratory birds have been annually migrating to the country from temperate climes. 

Custodio said that global multi-agency Scientific Task Force on Avian Influenza and Wild Birds had issued a statement against unjustly and unfairly blaming wild birds for AIV incidences around the world.

According to the Scientific Task Force’s statement, the H5N8 Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreaks are associated with intensive domestic poultry production. The statement was   issued last December 2016

The effect of the wrong attribution of Pathogenic Avian Influenza to migratory birds have resulted in mortality and conservation issues.

The task force has said that attributing the spread of HPAI viruses to wild birds has resulted in mortality and conservation issues.

“The specific role of wild birds particularly in the long-distance transmission of the virus, if existent, remains unclear,” Custodio disclosed and was based on  the task force’s Dec. 20, 1996 statement.

The outbreak led to the deaths of 34,000 chickens and another 500,000 were culled so as to prevent the spread of the virus to other poultry farms.

Standardized Mechanization Program Pushed by DA

100% National Rice Self-Sufficiency can be attained and that is why the Department of Agriculture is pushing for standardized mechanization in agriculture.

This particularly important in the rice-producing sector of agriculture since standardized mechanization will reduce post-harvest losses and would lead to the above-mentioned objective. The reduction in post-harvest losses will ameliorate the three million metric tons (MT) of rice losses annually.

 “Japan, for example, has a 16 percent mechanization rate while our country has only two percent mechanization rate. If we can lessen post-harvest loss by at least six to eight percent, we can already achieve rice sufficiency,” DA Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said.

 “If we wish to help farmers increase their productivity and income, let’s give them the best, so we can also change their mindset,” the DA Secretary further added.

This standardized mechanization program will also be complemented by the use of high yielding hybrid rice varieties that will translate to increased production and higher quality of rice yields.

 “By simply planting hybrid rice on our farms, we can increase harvest and income. We don’t even have to expand production areas,” Piñol disclosed.

The objective is to increase the level of mechanization to 4-horsepower per hectare as what is standard in ASEAN countries according to the Philippine Center for Post-Harvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech). 

Currently, the average horse[power per hectare in the country is 3-horsepower per hectare.

According to PhilMech, a boost in the budget for mechanization will enable Filipino farmers to be at par with the farmers in Thailand and Vietnam, both rice exporting countries.

“Our new advocacy is to develop and commercialize the technologies where stakeholders will be the ones to tell us what they want and need, then we will address their concerns,” PhilMech stated.

Standardized Mechanization together with the use of hybrid rice varieties as adopted by farmers and agricultural cooperatives will make the target of National Rice Self-Sufficiency attainable soon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

PeacePond: Sustainable Organic Farming

A 2-hectare organic farm in Binalbagan, Negros Occidental is proving the sustainability of best agricultural and environmental practices.

PeacePond rose from what was formerly a fishpond that dated back to the 1960s. The fishpond then used chemical fertilizers and is the direct opposite of what it is today. 

Typhoon Frank devastated the fishpond in 2008 and the farmers noted the environmental concerns that went with it. They then transformed the once chemical dependent fishpond into an organic, environmentally friendly farm with five fishponds.

The organic farm is surrounded by coconut trees which is included in the entire 5-hectare farm wherein the 2-hectare organic farm is located. One of the 5 ponds has been converted into a mangrove plantation.

PeacePond is a showcase of best practices in farming such as crop rotation, intercropping, ran shelter, terracing, and multi-cropping. Year-round crop rotation of vegetables and is based in the Calendar for planting provided by the Department of Agriculture. 

One of the notable features of the farm is its Zero-Carbon Footprint for its irrigation system. Not using electric pumps for water distribution, PeacePond utilizes recycled bicycle parts in delivering water to 3 reservoir drums to 40 vegetable plots. Also, a rain catchment drums are utilized in providing water to the Organic Food Garden and the Organic Fertilizer Production.

Fertilizers are produced from agricultural wastes that are also used for pesticides, rodenticides, and compost.  

PeacePond also manufactures its own vinegar from coconut so as to utilize his important component in making pesticides as well as using natural insect repellents such as lemongrass in insect and pest control. 

PeacePond also conducted eco-tours that were undertaken last October 2016 to July 2017. The harvest from PeacePond includes the following:

1. Coconuts
2. Copra
3. Bangus
4. Virgin Coconut Oil
5. Vegetables
6. CocoSugar
7. Vermicast
8. CRH


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