Sunday, January 28, 2018

DA allots P500 M for rice-corn blend

The Department of Agriculture (DA) plans to spend at least half a billion pesos to facilitate the entry of the rice-corn blend in the local market.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the agency has committed an initial P50 million to the Philippine Maize Federation (PhilMaize).

“We will start entering the commercial markets in the second quarter. For this year, our target is to infuse 500,000 metric tons of corn component into our staple food supply and that should effectively cover whatever shortage we have in grains,” Piñol said.
As part of the Marawi rehabilitation, the DA is developing 10,000 hectares of white corn farms in Lanao.

The DA will also ensure the availability of quality corn seeds and provide capacity building, farm mechanization equipment, and post-harvest facilities.

The rice-corn blend will be available in NFA outlets in Metro Manila and in major supermarkets including SM, Rustan’s and Robinson’s.  It will be priced lower than the average retail price of rice.

The average price of regular-milled rice is P36 per kilogram.

PhilMaize, on the other hand, will supply quality rice-corn blend.

Last year, domestic consumption of rice reached 12.9 million metric tons (MT) while production was only 11.5 million MT or a shortfall of 1.4 million MT.

The local industry is promoting the rice-corn blend as a health food because corn has a lower calorie and carbohydrate content compared to rice.

Studies also showed that corn contains more vitamins, minerals, and proteins than white rice.  Blending the two will give more nutritional benefits to consumers.

One in five Filipinos eats white corn grits as staple food next to rice.

In the Zamboanga Peninsula alone, the per capita consumption of corn at 160 kilograms is higher than the national per capita consumption of rice at 110 kg.

Corn was considered as a “poor man’s rice” in the 1960s when rice shortage forced many Filipinos to eat inferior rice mixed with rough corn grits.

Approximately one-third of Filipino farmers, or 1.8 million individuals, depend on corn as their major source of livelihood.


Mushroom Industry for Pangasinan Town

One Town One Product (OTOP) is being pursued by a municipality in Pangasinan in order to for it to be a focal point in mushroom production in the country.

Sta, Maria, Pangasinan is the site of the Mushroom Research and Development Center of the Pangasinan State University and is casting its lot in producing mushrooms for enabling it to produce mushrooms the whole year round.

The center wherein there is a 4,000 square meter lot with a laboratory room where strains of cultured mushrooms are produced and stored aims for having a sustainable mushroom production capacity that will be at the forefront of a national mushroom industry.

The production of high quality and adaptable mushrooms strains that will be available to farmers, growers, students and researchers and even entrepreneurs who wish to go into mushroom will be part of the center.

 The town grows Pleurotus- oyster mushroom and Volvariella-button mushrooms.   

To further the promotion of its mushrooms, the municipality has declared  Feb. 14-22, 2018 and every year thereafter as Mushroom Festival week. 

Locally grown mushrooms have a price of Php 150m-200 per kilo and This agricultural town is now aggressively promoting mushroom production.

This cash crop will enable mushroom farmers and growers to have a year round crop that will be a source of revenue for them and the template can be replicable anywhere in the country.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Laser leveling technology for agriculture

Laser Levelling Technology being utilized in a farm

Agricultural producers must embrace revolutionary strategies to increase productivity, deliver cost-effective technologies, and ensure sustainable food supply.

The International Rice Research Institute, in cooperation with the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), conducted a training on basic tractor operation, maintenance and implementation of laser-assisted land leveling.

This initiative is part of the work package output of the water-efficient and risk mitigation technologies for enhancing rice production in irrigated and rainfed environments or WateRice project.

The project aims to teach the  Department of Agriculture (DA) extension agents about basic operation, maintenance and troubleshooting of the laser leveling system, a farming technique that uses laser-assisted system and a drag bucket to make precise leveling of the field.

This technology makes farming efficient by reducing water requirement during land preparation and labor requirement during weeding operation. It also improves rice crop establishment, uniformity and maturity.

As part of the training, participants had a hands-on exercise on basic tractor operation and an orientation on conducting pre-maintenance checks to ensure the equipment’s proper and long-term functioning.

They were also taught how to perform a topographic survey on the field, which is an important step in the leveling process.

The activity’s highlight was an actual engagement in leveling operations. Participants were given the opportunity to familiarize themselves with laser leveling equipment, and were encouraged to raise questions regarding its use.

During the exchanges, participants learned valuable information about the technology such as the costs of laser leveling per field, the length of time it takes to laser level certain areas, and the best time of the season to conduct it.

 “Through the training, we were able to witness how laser leveling is done, and how useful it will be to the farmer,”  said Jerry Batcagan of Philrice Isabela.

For her part, Dianne Gabriel of WateRice  said: “This new technology will help women to easily participate in field work. Now, nobody can say girls can’t deal with machines.”

 “The WateRice project encounters problems during the dry season, such as water shortage and high cost of leveling. In other countries, technology is made available to small holder farmers through the private sector and service providers. We are happy that finally, we have the approval of the Department of Agriculture to acquire a laser leveling unit so we can start implementing the technique in our programs,” said Roger Barroga, head of PhilRice’s Information Systems Division.

The training was attended by 36 technicians and researchers from the DA’s field offices in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija; Isabela and Batac.


Cocoa industry boom to spur Philippines farm tourism

Philippine Cacao

The Philippines’ fast-growing cacao and chocolate industry will boost a promising farm tourism industry that caters to foreign and local visitors looking for wholesome fun and adventure in the countryside.

“Farm tourism in the country has thrived on the best practices and growth of the cocoa industry,” said Sen. Cynthia Villar in her keynote address to over 2,000 cacao growers and entrepreneurs during the Kakao Konek 2017 exposition held at SMX Lanang in Davao City.

Villar authored Republic Act 10816 or Farm Tourism Development Act, which mandates the promotion of tourism at agricultural destinations through partnerships with private stakeholders.

Davao City boasts of vast greenery, including nature park and farm resorts, like the Malagos Resort, Eden’s Nature Park, Hijo Banana Resort, Gumamela Caverock Farm Resort, Pearl Farm, among others.

During the two-day conference and exhibit, Davao Mayor Sara Duterte and officials of the Department of Tourism  led the launch of the “Chocolate Tour Overload” that featured Davao City as the “Cacao Capital of the Philippines.”

“Accounting for 90 percent of the local cacao production, the spotlight is now on Mindanao with Davao as the country’s chocolate capital, even as the farmers face the challenge to meet the growing demand for Philippine cacao, indicating international recognition of its quality,” Duterte said.

“We believe in the perfect marriage of farm and tourism as showcased by the sweet success our cocoa growers and chocolate producers, like the Malagos chocolate,” said DOT Assistant Secretary Eden Josephine David.

David noted that the Malagos Puentespina chocolates, produced in a self-sustained 12-hectare cocoa farm resort in Malagos, Davao City, was among the top 50 awardees of the Salon de Chocolat held in Paris recently.

“The challenge of achieving 100,000 metric tons of cacao by 2020 stays, and this can only be achieved with both private and government sectors working together,” said Dante Muyco, president of the Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao, the event’s main sponsor.

Also present during the conference was Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol who lauded the best practices of Davao’s successful cacao growers and chocolate producers.


Organic Seed Production Boosted by Government

It is acknowledged that organically grown agricultural produce is a healthier alternative. Also, organic farming is considered ecologically sound as far as farming techniques are concerned since chemicals that eventually find its residue in the eco-system are non-existent.

But it is not only in the growing of the agricultural products that organic farming is all about. The production of organic seeds is the first step in organic farming and the government recognizes this.

The Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) is endeavoring in this direction with its funding of the  “Development of Organic Seed Production System of Lowland Vegetables and Field Legumes  and Strengthening Partnership in CALABARZON, MIMAROPA and the Bicol Region.” The aim of the project/program is the establishment of a national organic seed production area and at the same time expand the science based technology on organic seed production.

The project’s objective is  increasing the production of certified organic seeds of NSIC varieties and promising lines of field legumes and selected vegetables, maintaining organic certification from Organic  Certification Center of the Philippines  for the organic seed production system, strengthening partnership with identified organic stakeholders in CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, and the Bicol Region, and disseminating organic seed production technology to farmers and interested individuals in said regions.

The target is production area for tomato, eggplant, squash, ampalaya, bottle gourd, sponge gourd, mustard, okra, pole sitao, and cowpea consists of a three-hectare land inside BPI-LBNCRDC.

The project was initiated in 2013 and it led to the expansion of the organic seeds production area. 

More than 2,000 farmers and technicians trained on organic seed and vegetable production were the beneficiaries of the project. The trainings were conducted in Palawan, Albay, Sorsogon, and Oriental Mindoro, which led to the identification of possible collaborators of the project.

Russian Technical Assistance to Help PH Agri

Current PNRI Irradiation Facility

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST)  will get technical assistance from Russia with regards to increasing the number of irradiation facilities for agricultural use.

The assistance will come from the Russian government that will add more electronic beam facilities for use by fruit and vegetable exporters. This was disclosed by DOST Secretary Fortunato dela Peña.

This will considerably increase the capacity of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) in handling the irradiation of agricultural products for export.

“We are short of capacity in terms of irradiating products particularly those for export. Today, we have to irradiate potato, mango… because this is a requirement of importing countries. We only have one facility in QC, in the PNRI compound. It’s running 24/7, and still cannot cope,” Dela Peña said. “So there is an urgent need to set up more facilities.”

Increased demand for Philippine vegetable and fruit exports has resulted in the demand of the irradiation facility that will improve shelf life and disinfect the fruits and vegetables to be exported.

Currently, there is only one facility of the PNRI that conducts such process and there is a backlog even though it is already operating at full capacity 24 hours and 7 days a week.

This will be undertaken via a local firm, A Brown Co. Inc. (ABCI), that has partnered with Rusatom Healthcare, a division of Russian State Atomic Energy Corp. Rosatom, to build a network of agro irradiation centers in the Philippines starting this 2018 to help improve the country’s agribusiness sector and its capacity.

Irradiation or electronic beams for agricultural products such as fruits and vegetables eliminate bacteria and germs, prevent the spread of pests, and delay or prevent ripening or spoiling during transit and storage. The process reduces the risk of food-borne illnesses and increases longevity and shelf life. The process does not make the produce radioactive and is considered safe.


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