Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Asian Fisheries Academy Honors 2 Filipino Aquaculturists

Dr. Guerrero and Dr. Maximo Abesamis being feted by he AFA

Rafael Guerrero and Maximo Abesamis received citations at the Asian Fisheries Academy (AFA). The honors were conferred by the Society of Aquaculture Engineers of the Philippines (SAEP) and the Philippine Aquaculture Society,  Inc. (PAS). 

Rafael Guerrero is considered as the promoter of all-male tilapia culture in the country. Together with his wife, Guerrero in the 1980s formed a research and development company that provided sex reversal feed that will boost commercial production of tilapia despite the fact that the tilapia were all male.

This was from his doctoral dissertation at Auburn University during the 1970s and then was continued at the Central Luzon State University. This resulted in increased yields in tilapia farms.

Guerrero is a recipient of the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award and has also received various recognitions and awards from local and international institutions.

Maxio Abesamis introduced the modular system in milkfish culture. Abesamis has also been instrumental in introducing Gusathion and Brestan to control snails and other microorganisms that are harmful to milkfish culture and farming. His system was proven to be efficient that up to now, almost all fishpond operators are using the same method. 

An awardee of the Ten Outstanding Young Scientists (TOYS) award in 1980 conferred by the National Science and Development Board (NSDB), he pioneered the system of bangus production in fishpens that were initially undertaken in Dagupan City, Pangasinan which was widely replicated in the country. 

But Abesamis also discovered that bangus and salmon had similar characteristics and it was also applied to mass producing salmon in ocean cages.

These contributions led to sustainable growth in the fishing industry.

PH Non-Rice Agri Products Increase in Yield

Philippine vegetable and root crops yield posted increases in production this year. Leading the production is Eastern Visayas that accounted for 40% of the last quarter harvest of vegetables and root crops.

The increased yields were registered as mongo, peanuts, cabbage, eggplant, tomato, cassava and sweet potato.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), cassava production increased by two percent for the last quarter of the year. 

This was due to the sustained demand for food, feeds and industrial use being experienced all over the country. 

With regards to tomato production, it also posted an increase in production of 2%. This was due to high yielding varieties and sustained demand.

The Cagayan Valley Region posted the highest production for mongo with the Davao Region and Cagayan de Oro posting increased yields as well.

The confluence of high yielding varieties and ideal weather conditions contributed considerably to the posting of increased yields.

This is in consonance with the Department of Agriculture's (DA's) efforts in providing the means for national food security and affordable food prices for all as per President Duterte's policy.

Bohol to Be Developed as PH Dairy Capital

Dairy Farming in the Philippines 

5,000 heads of Girolando dairy cattle will start the ambitious program of the Department of Agriculture (DA) of increasing the production of 22 million liters of milk annually. 

Bohol is being targeted to be the Dairy Capital of the country. This was announced by DA Secretary Emmanuel Pinol. The site of the Philippine Dairy Development Program is the 3,000-hectare Ubay Stock Farm which is conducive to optimizing dairy cattle farming.

“I will be meeting with Bohol Governor Edgar Chatto and Ubay Mayor Costan Reyes to present to them a proposal which would turn the province of Bohol into the dairy capital of the Philippines,” DA Sec. Pinol stated.

The DA Secretary also said, “The project is expected to provide employment for the local people and additional sources of income for the farmers who would be engaged in the planting of forage and in the fattening of the male offsprings of the dairy cattle.” 
IN 2016, dairy production increased four percent to 21,160 metric tons, registering the highest increase under the livestock sector at 10 percent to P715 million.

But, the industry still could not supply the local requirement as the country imported 453,000 metric tons of dairy valued at $808 million in 2016.

The main source of the imports is New Zealand that accounts for 39 percent of the total and the US (24 percent). Other sources were Australia and Germany.

The success of the dairy program will then be replicated in other areas of Bohol wherein the targeted communities will also benefit economically so as to spur further development and more income for the people.

Technology Transfer Day in Central Luzon

The 5th Technology Transfer Day hosted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) was held last December 11, 2017, at the Widus Hotel. The 5th Edition for this year was for Central Luzon. 

Te  Technology Transfer Day was participated in by almost 500 technology generators from the Fairness Opinion Board (FOB) that included Micro-Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs), technology experts, lawyers and even members of the academe.

The 5th edition’s theme was Global competitiveness through research-led, industry-linked technology transfers,” wherein sessions for consultancy/negotiation for technology transfer deals with potential investors were conducted.

These varied from agri-aqua culture culture productivity that featured carrageenan as plant growth fertilizers, wilt culture that addresses fusarium wilt of solenceous crops and lamp diagnostic spot syndrome virus in shrimps and genome-based lateral flow biosensor kits.

Industry competitiveness sessions were also conducted that offered technologies on stabilized brown rice, food innovation center for processing equipment, food innovation center products and even ready to drink mango juice with nata.

Another session was for showcased agro-forestry machinery like non-wood dryers; bamboo technologies; hand tractor-attached rice transplanter; Central Luzon State University-technology hydroponics, and Central Luzon State University-technology biogas digester.

Technology licensing agreements were also awarded.

This is the 5th Technology Transfer activity that the DOST conducted this year. This is in accordance with Republic Act 10055, or the Philippine Technology Transfer Act of 2009. The Act mandates the DOST to provide the funding and support system for the ownership, management, use, and commercialization of intellectual property generated from research and development funded by the government.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Brewing success with Cordillera coffee farmers

Getting one’s daily caffeine mix seems to be a walk in the park for some--be it a cappuccino from a favorite high-end cafe or a simple instant coffee from home. But this is not the case for two long-time friends whose love affair with coffee moved to a whole new level.

Knowing that coffee is more complex in flavor than any other drink, Katherine Chelle “KC” Boter and Karen de Guzman are taking their beans very seriously.

Thus, they put up Figures of Beans with the aim of bringing responsibly-grown, skillfully roasted and expertly prepared premium coffee right to anyone’s doorsteps.

When KC left the private banking industry to do freelance work in 2015, she decided to partner with Karen who already had a bakeshop.

“Every time I work, I really need coffee. I don’t want instant coffee, I want quality coffee, the ones that I get from Starbucks, Coffee Bean, and the others,” said the 26-year-old KC who graduated with a degree in Psychology from the De La Salle University.
KC believes that making a good cup of coffee with the best ingredients is the bedrock of a successful business.

Figures of Beans sources its coffee from the Cordillera region, a major producer of international quality coffee beans.

The two girls set up the business at a time when the Philippines remains highly dependent on imported coffee beans.

Local production can hardly keep up with the continuous demand for coffee, prompting coffee-related businesses to heavily depend on imports from major producing countries such as Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, and India, among others.

“We import a lot of coffee so we tried looking for other sources where we can really get good local coffee. We saw the potential of the industry here in the Philippines,” KC said.

“Majority of our coffee beans comes from Sagada, some from Benguet. Before,  we used all imported coffee for our cupcakes and it was really expensive, about three times compared with the locally made,” Karen said.

With a seed capital of roughly P30,000, KC and Karen started Figures of Beans, an online store which offers Cordillera coffee in six variants --  Irony (Sagada dark roast), Oxymoron (Arabica Robusta), Paradox (Benguet Arabica), Understatement (hazelnut), Metaphor (caramel) and Euphemism (vanilla).

“We had to do the legwork since the brand was just starting. We had to approach stores one by one and talk to them about our products. It’s important that when they see our products, it is visually appealing but the end goal is to provide quality coffee,” KC said.

“We started in stores in Tagaytay through the pasalubong centers. Then from there, we saw the warm reception of the customers, once they see Sagada they want to get it, they associate it with the experience they had when they went there,” she added.

“We don’t take coffee literally. Coffee is so special from the production, coming from the farmers all the way to your cup, something that binds people together. For us, it’s not just coffee because there’s more to coffee,” KC said.

Figures of Beans has since attracted a significant following.  To further expand their products’ reach, the duo teamed up with several merchants which now include Kultura by SM and Manila Peninsula, their biggest brands to date.

“I handle all the big partners while Karen handles our online partners like Lazada, Shopinas, and Honestbee. Once we were out there online, other platforms saw us and they invited us to join,” KC said.

While Figures of Beans is almost two years old, the two think the growth of the business has been unexpectedly fast, allowing them to get the return of their investment in a span of one year.

“I think there is also the luck factor. When I started my own cafe, development was really slow. But with Figures of Beans,  we were able to partner with big brands,” said Karen, who has a Management degree from the University of Asia and the Pacific.

While Figures of Beans can be considered a pioneer for carrying the Sagada brand, a similar line of business sprang up, making competition tougher.

“When we started, it was only us but now, all of a sudden, there a lot of other brands. We really are the ones who started putting the Sagada coffee in retail stores. But we don’t really look at the competition because we want to focus on our own brand,” KC said.

Apart from the coffee itself, KC and Karen wanted to share to consumers the joy of brewing their own coffee in the comforts of their homes and offices through instruction manuals included in every purchase of their products.

“Not everyone knows how to brew. We are an instant coffee nation, that when we see ground coffee, we immediately assume that we can just mix it with water. With us, we want to encourage our customers to brew their own so they get to experience quality coffee,” KC said.

“We want to provide quality content to our customers and readers by providing tips on how to brew their coffee and give educational videos as well,” she added.

As of now, KC and Karen dream of expanding their business to other parts of the country and eventually building brick and mortar stores as well as tapping the international markets.

“We had a lot of milestones but I think there’s still so much to improve on especially our products’ reach. Not because you’re with Kultura, you’re already big. We want people to know that we have good coffee here since a lot of people think they can only get good coffee from other countries,” KC said.

On a larger scope, Karen and KC are urging the government and the private sector to help uplift the lives of coffee farmers and ensure a healthy supply of high-quality coffee for the future.
“The problem is that the younger generations do not want to farm anymore so the older ones can no longer pass on their knowledge. I think the government should provide programs to the farmers because we have enough space to plant but then again, we don’t have the programs to support them,” KC said.

“We want to make programs for the farmers to make it sustainable for them. Some are disheartened to continue since there is no support. The only way for farmers to continue producing local coffee is to simply support them,” she added.


DA goes all out for Agri-Tourism

It has been recognized that since 3 years ago, there is a market for Agricultural Tourism or Agri-Tourism. This country is fortunate that there is an agricultural sector with many success stories that prove that agriculture is sustainable and presents another facet for tourism.

In the case of the Department of Agriculture 9DA), the agency has already recognized the potentials of Agri-Tourism. The DA is converting one of its research stations into an Agri-Tourism site.  

The Davao Region Upland Agriculture Research Station (DARUARS) is set to convert the 429-hectare land into an agro-eco tourism area.

According to DA-Davao Region Research and Regulations assistant director Angelina Pancho “This has a big potential to become an agro eco-tourism area. We can conduct research about climate resilient crops here and put more buildings which can help the farmers and IPs (indigenous people).”

A multi-purpose building has been donated by the BAR which is a the P4-million multipurpose R&D building which plays a vital role in providing farmers the means of access to the various farming technologies generated from the works of the R&D community.

“We want to foster an environment that will facilitate the easier adoption of new technologies that contribute more effectively to tackling the emerging challenges in agriculture, not only in this region but in other places as well,” DA-BAR director Nicomedes Eleazar said.

PH Sugar in Doldrums

Sugar production in the Philippines suffered an 11% decrease by October 22, 2017. This was disclosed by the Sugar Regulatory Authority (SRA).

Production fell to 100,995 metric tons (MT) based on data on crop year 2017 – 2018 wherein the spiral reached down to 2.01 million od 50kilogram bags from 2.3 million 50 kilogram bags in 2016.

It must be noted that the country's raw sugar demand was at 33% higher at 323,402 MT. This can be attributed also to the total number of sugarcanes milled at the same period that declined by 10% to 1.3 million MT. 

Eight mills have started milling as of October 22, 2017, namely Biscom, First Farmers, Hawaiian, La Carlota, Sagay, URC-Sonedco and Victorias, where more than half or 57 percent came from Victorias.

Another item to be considered is that in terms of refined sugar, production nearly tripled to 29,602 MT from 10,143 MT.

Sugar prices at the mill gate declined 19% to P1,229 per 50-kg bag.
Wholesale and retail prices for raw, washed, and refined sugar also saw lower prices.       

The Sugar industry sector has been beset by problems, particularly the issue of importation of corn-based fructose sugar that the local softdrinks industry saw as more cheaper than purchasing locally produced sugar from sugarcanes.

Rice Pests Return Causes More Losses

BHP Infested Ricefield. Losses have already amounted to Php17.87 million

The Philippines has suffered damages to its rice crop amounting to Php17.87 million currently. This was caused by the re-emergence of the Brown PlantHopper (BPH).

Last experienced in 2015, the BPH infestation called hopperburn has affected 4,000 hectares of ricefields in Samar. This worse than what was experienced last 2015 since the area now covered by the infestation is much larger than the nine provinces that experienced the hopperburn infestation in 2015 wherein 9 provinces were affected.

Currently, hopperburn has infested 18 provinces and has grown three times than the 2015 infestation.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary has voiced concern for the return of hopperburn. This was disclosed during the forum held at the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol expressed concern over the re-emergence of BPH.

This has caused losses to farmers and the agriculture sector mentioned is distressed.

BPH also spreads viruses that causes rice ragged stunt and rice grassy stunt. BHP attacks the lower stalks that causes the leaves to turn brown and the rice husks have nothing inside them.

Current pesticides in use have detrimental effects since these pesticides also kill the natural predators of BPH. “Instead of reducing BPH infestation, heavy pesticide use can kill the natural enemies of BPH and allow them to multiply and destroy crops without let-up,” the DA Secretary disclosed.

The DA secretary assured farmers that the DA is closely monitoring the situation and that efforts are being made to mitigate and alleviate the effects of the infestation.

The Acting Executive Director of PhilRice,  Sailila Abdula explained that BPH causes extensive sap loss owing to its feeding on the basal (lower) portion of the rice plant, resulting in drying or hopperburn.

“Farmers should be equipped with proper and timely interventions on how to handle pest management,” Abdula disclosed.

Augmenting PH Cattle Population

The Philippines Cattle Industry is the least developed in terms of technical, production and organization I the Agriculture Industry sector.

Declining cattle population in the Philippines has been noted since more than a decade ago and yet demand for beef continues to increase.

It must be acknowledged that since it is among the least developed sectors in agriculture, it needs to be upgraded. Currently, cattle raising is a privately held enterprise such as smallhold or backyard type of industry.

It is thus in need of technical assistance since most or 94% is of the backyard type. In ASEAN, the Philippines has the lowest growth rate in terms of cattle population, scoring a “negative” in growth in population rates.

The solution has been to import cattle from Australia and even India. Now, the Department of Agriculture is set to import cattle from Latin America. 

The World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) laid down guidelines that will allow the country to import the breeding materials.

The protocols have already been set by the OIE according to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol. This will enable the country to import cattle from Brazil and Argentina without violating foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) free without vaccination status policy.

“It would involve the quarantine of the cattle for six months in an area to be cleared by the OIE before the animals are shipped to the Philippines,” Piñol said.

“It would involve the quarantine of the cattle for six months in an area to be cleared by the OIE before the animals are shipped to the Philippines,” Piñol said.

“Since all animals in both countries receive mandatory FMD vaccination, the six-month quarantine will be enough time to determine whether the animals are healthy or not,” the DA secretary stated.

Private sector investors will be provided with an area and support by the DA for the establishment of the breeding program.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Extension of Access to High Seas Tuna Fishing Ground Sought by PH

The Philippines is one of the top Tuna producing countries in the world with 1.6 million people whose livelihood is dependent on the industry. Tuna remains the top export in the Philippine fishing industry sector contributing to 1.6% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

Regulations in fishing for tuna in the high seas is monitored by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) to ensure continued economic fishing activities.

The access to fishing for tuna in high seas pocket – 1 was granted to the Philippines in 2013 and will expire this year. The rights granted was for 5 years.

The Philippines is now negotiating for an extension to access the high seas pocket- 1. “We are negotiating continued access to high seas pocket 1 and the current terms and conditions of the existing WCPFC conservation and management measures on tropical tunas,” Agriculture Undersecretary and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources national director Eduardo Gongona said. 

“We want at least five years. We have to generate income, employment, and economic activities. We would like to continue that situation and we will negotiate that with the commission,” the Usec added.

“We are committed to our tuna catch where 75 percent of that goes to export and 25 percent are processed here and all of these linkages mean income and employment for the Philippines,” Gongona disclosed.

The high seas pocket – 1 was opened in 2011 after a 2-year ban on tuna fishing in all 4 high seas – pockets due to the declining tuna population. The ban’s objective was to make the tuna population recover and then implement regulations so as to assure sustainability.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations cited that markets for tuna products continue to increase based on the growth of consumption in new regions of the world and the dissemination of sushi as a global dietary trend.


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