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2018 WINNERS

AGRICULTURE PHOTO OF THE YEAR

"POND HARVEST"
WILFREDO LOMIBAO
THE PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER

TOBACCO PHOTO OF THE YEAR

"CHILL ONLY"
ERWIN BELEO
THE STAR NORTHERN DISPATCH
AGRICULTURE STORY OF THE YEAR
“THE GRASS THAT FEEDS FILIPINOS”
HENRYLITO TACIO
EDGE DAVAO
This five part series is an in-depth discussion about rice—from its history to the various types of rice grown all over the country to the Green Revolution and hybrid rice varieties to GMOs and to how rice became the staple food for most Filipinos. It explores the health disadvantages of high rice consumption and the programs that the government has taken to provide vitamin fortified rice to children. Finally, it discusses climate change and the strategies that have already been created to address this.
FULL STORY
THE GRASS THAT FEEDS FILIPINOS
AGRICULTURE STORY OF THE YEAR
“The Grass That Feeds Filipinos”
Henrylito Tacio, Edge Davao



THE GRASS THAT FEEDS FILIPINOS

(First of Five Parts)

“The rice self-sufficiency target is an upwardly moving target that is always out of reach. We are like Alice in Wonderland: We have to keep running just to stay in place.” – Dr. Gelia T. Castillo in Rice is Life



***

Filipino plant pathologist Dr. Benito Vergara worked at the Laguna-based International Rice Research Rice Research Institute (IRRI) from 1961 to 1995. He died in 2015 at the age of 81.

Unknown to most Filipinos, Dr. Vergara contributed significantly on rice research, particularly on studies on deep water rice, flood-tolerant rice, and cold-resistant rice, varieties which are valuable to increased rice production. He also focused on the physiology of rice plant flowering, and developed rapid generation methods for rice.

In 1975, he wrote a book entitled “Science Principles in Rice Farming” to explain not only the “why’s” but also the “how’s” of good rice-growing practices.

Since it was written especially for extension workers, the IRRI was initially not interested with the book. It was renowned Filipino agricultural journalist Zacarias Sarian who saw the book’s potentials and published it. But when other countries started to ask permission to translate the book into their own language, IRRI decided to publish it in 1979 with better illustrations.

In 1980, then President Ferdinand E. Marcos published a Tagalog version.

Today, Dr. Vergara’s “Farmer’s Primer on Growing Rice” is touted as the rice farmer’s bible, whatever his religion. It has been translated into 42 languages, including Chinese, French and Spanish – and still counting!

“It may be the most widely translated agricultural book in existence,” Dr. Vergara told this author. “It never occurred to me that the book would be really that popular.”

The book’s popularity is perhaps due to the fact that rice is the most important economic activity on this planet. This is particularly true in Asia, where rice is grown on 250 million farms, most of which are smaller than one hectare.

“Rice is the one thing that truly defines Asia,” said Dr. Ronald Cantrell when he was still the IRRI Director-General. “From Pakistan to North Korea to Papua New Guinea and Indonesia, rice is the one thing shared by all. Asia has no common political systems, no common religions, no common philosophies and no shared social values – however, each and every day most Asian join in together to eat rice.”

Despite rising per capita income that had led to a more diversified diet in neighboring Asian countries, rice remains the staple food of Filipinos. Studies have shown that for every peso spent on food, 20 centavos go to rice.

“If we did not have rice, our deepest comfort food, we would probably feel less Filipino,” the late food columnist Doreen Fernandez once said.

From 1980s to 1990s, a Filipino consumed an average of 92 kilograms. The consumption went up to 111 kilograms from 2008 to 2009. From 2009 to 2010, it even increased to 119 kilograms.

Today, Filipinos consume about 31,450 metric tons of rice per day, according to Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol of the Department of Agriculture.

Philippine history is lacking if rice is not included in its annals. “The history of rice cultivation in the country dates back at least 3,000 years,” wrote Dr. Gelia T. Castillo, an academician and national scientist. “The building of rice terraces came a bit later.”

It was in 1576 that an account of rice cultivation was recorded. By 1668, someone wrote that “rice usually does not last longer than the time it takes to harvest, since the rest they pay in tribute or sell to get the cash to pay the tribute.”

Recently, the Grains Retailers’ Confederation of the Philippines, Inc. urged the government to approve the proposal of the National Food Authority to import 250,000 metric tons of rice to boost its buffer stock. At that time, the NFA had only a total inventory of 1.2 million 50-kilogram bags, equivalent to two days of the country’s total rice consumption.

This situation seems to be a frequent event. “The story of rice in the Philippines is indeed a history of recurring shortages,” Castillo wrote. “To illustrate this dramatically, a news item dated March 10, 1872 had the caption ‘Rice Shortage Feared.’ On about the same date, but a century later, March 11, 1972, the headline of a news item was ‘Government Certified Rice Shortage’ and a total importation of 500,000 metric tons from Thailand was contracted.”

Rice self-sufficiency, so goes a saying, is national security. Once it is achieved, it is a matter of celebration, but when it is on the contrary, it is a matter of shame and blame. “Rice self-sufficiency has positive political value, just as a rice shortage, with delayed importation and an increase in rice prices, can bring political misfortune,” Castillo noted.

This happened in 199’s rice crisis. The principal cause was: “the failure of government to anticipate a shortfall in domestic production and to plan imports to make up for the shortfall.”

As a result of the rice crisis, the secretary of the Department of Agriculture was sacked. “Because of the high political cost, no politician wants to get caught with a rice shortage; increased rice price; or, worst of all, queues of urban consumers waiting to buy cheap rice, especially on a rainy day,” Castillo wrote.

Rice is not originally from the Philippines, although it is the staple food of Filipinos. Until now, it is being debated where rice originally comes from. D.H. Grist, in his book Rice, pointed this out: “We do not know the country of origin of rice, but the weight of evidence points out to the conclusion that the center of origin of rice is southeast Asia, particularly India and Indo-China, where the richest diversity of cultivated forms has been recorded.”

Cultivation of rice, however, dates to the earliest age of man. “Carbonized paddy grains and husks, estimated to date 1000 to 800 B.C. have been found in excavations at Hastinapur in Uttar Pradesh, India. Specimens of rice have been discovered in China dating from the third millennium B.C. and the Chinese term for rice appears in inscription dating from the second millennium B.C.”

Perhaps not too many know that there are four major kinds of rice culture: rainfed paddy, upland rice, deep-water rice and irrigated lowland rice. Rainfed paddy, most common in South and Southeast Asia, depends on monsoonal rains to soften the fields for plowing.

Upland rice is dependent on rainfall. Because the land is not diked, there is no standing water and weeds and pests are a problem, particularly weeds since standing water discourages weeds.

Deep-water rice culture (or floating rice) is practiced primarily in the heavy monsoonal areas of east Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Irrigated lowland planting is the method used in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

In the Philippines, much of the country’s irrigated rice is grown on the central plain of Luzon, the country’s rice bowl. Other major rice-producing regions are located in Mindanao (23%), Central Luzon (16%), Western Visayas (13%), Southern Tagalog (10%) and Ilocos (9%).

The rest of rice comes mainly from various coastal lowland areas and gently rolling erosional plains, such as in Mindanao and Iloilo.

Rainfed rice is found in the Cagayan Valley, in Iloilo province, and on the coastal plains of Visayas and Ilocos region. Upland rice is grown in both permanent and shifting cultivation systems scattered throughout the archipelago on rolling to steep lands.

“Rice is the staple food of Filipinos in most parts of the country, although corn also contributes 20% or more of caloric intake from cereals in parts of Visayas and Mindanao,” said “Rice Almanac: Source Book for the Most Important Economic Activity on Earth.” “For the country as a whole, rice accounts for 41% of total caloric intake and 31% of total protein intake.”

Although rice (known in the science world as “Oryza sativa”) is basically a complex carbohydrate, its protein contains all eight of the essential amino acids and complements the amino acids found in many other foods. It is low in sodium, fat, and fiber, it is easily digested.

Most of the rice available in the market is enriched, which means, besides its other assets, it is also supplemented with iron, niacin, and thiamine. But most of these added nutrients are lost if rice is washed before cooking or drained afterward. (To be continued)



THE GRASS THAT FEEDS FILIPINOS

(Second of Five Parts)

Back in the 1950s, Asia faced an impending food crisis as population continues to grow. Something must be done so two American charities, the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, founded the IRRI. They reckoned promising developments in the science of plant breeding might just be the trick that would avert the looming disaster. A team of rice scientists patiently cross-breeding the 10,000 different varieties they had collected through the years.

After years of research, a high-yielding strain of rice was developed and tested. The results were amazing. From 88 kilograms of pure seeds sown, 71 tons were harvested. The following year, IRRI distributed they newly-discovered variety to Filipino farmers for free. The same thing happened. Impressed by the harvest, the news of “miracle rice” spread and IRRI officially released the variety on November 29, 1966 giving it a name IR8.

It also paved way to what experts called as an era of Green Revolution. In an article, Margaret Cunningham recalled that time: “The Green Revolution was a period when the productivity of global agriculture increased drastically as a result of new advances. During this time period, new chemical fertilizers and synthetic herbicides and pesticides were created. The chemical fertilizers made it possible to supply crops with extra nutrients and, therefore, increase yield. The newly developed synthetic herbicides and pesticides controlled weeds, deterred or kill insects, and prevented diseases, which also resulted in higher productivity.”

The IR8, which produces more grains of rice per plant when grown with certain fertilizers and lots of water, undoubtedly helped avert the impending rice crisis. But the world never learned its lesson. Population continues to grow and experts are again warning of a world crisis in food production.

Dr. Gurdev Khush, one of IRRI’s plant breeders who helped develop IR8, estimates that by 2020 the world population will have swollen to around 8 billion people – with 5 billion of them eating rice. Today, only around 3 billion people consume rice, so world rice production must increase by 60% in the next 20 years to meet the needs of the 2020 population.

But “unlike the Green Revolution 30 years ago, there is virtually no more tillable-land available to grow rice,” Cunningham reminded. “Future gains must be made solely by improving rice yields, and on top of that, there’s an imperative to use fewer harmful chemicals as fertilizers and for pest control.”

The IRRI knows that. Even with the success of IR8, it continues to search for a kind of rice that can thrive in harsh environments such as areas prone to flooding, drought, and salty soils. For another, the rice should be environment-friendly: using less water, no fertilizer and pesticides if possible and not a product of genetic engineering.

The IRRI has developed such kind of variety and it is called Green Super Rice (GSR). After almost two decades of testing and implementation around the world, the GSR is starting to have a dramatic effect on crop yields.

“We are at the fruit-bearing stage,” said Dr. Jauhar Ali, a senior scientist and regional project coordinator of the GSR program. “The harvest is good.”

One of those who tried planting GSR was Felicito Montano, a farmer from the municipality of Tanauan, Leyte who survived when Super Typhoon Yolanda hit the province. In an article published in Rice Today, an IRRI publication, he said: “I planted it for the first time after I was given 2 kilograms of certified seed after I completed a two-day training course on high-quality seed production at Visayas State University.”

Montano sowed those 2 kilograms of GSR seed and harvested 12 sacks from the first crop. Planting some of the harvested seed for his second crop, he was able to harvest 70 sacks, weighing from 45-50 kilos each. “That was double what I’d usually get from other varieties,” he was quoted as saying.

Indeed, GSR was much better than the traditional rice. “Although many farmers were hesitant to plant GSR at first, we received really good feedback from them after they gave it a try,” reported Evelyn Gergon, a crop protection specialist from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), who initiated the program in the province.

“Many farmers told me how great GSR performed in their fields,” Gergon further said. “Some farmers reported that they were able to obtain as much as 11 tons per hectare – 2.75 times the average yield of 4 tons in Leyte! Some farmers asked us to try eating the cooked rice. We hadn’t even tasted GSR then and so we did. It tasted good!”

Montano cited another reason why he liked GSR better than the previous rice he was growing. “I like GSR because its grains are good and weigh considerably heavier than the previous rice grains I tried in the past,” he said. “The crop is tolerant of pests and diseases. Lately, we’ve also started shifting to organic fertilizers instead of chemical ones.”

The IRRI developed the GSR together with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences. A non-profit organization established in 1960s by Ford and Rockefeller Foundation, it now funded by national governments as well as philanthropic organizations like Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The GSR program started in 1998 “involving the painstaking crossbreeding of more than 250 different varieties and rice hybrids,” said a news report. Most varieties chosen were those having difficultly growing in such conditions as drought and low inputs, including no pesticide and less fertilizer. Also handpicked were those with rapid establishment rates to out-compete weeds, thus reducing the need for herbicides.

“The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation originally funded the program with an US$18 million, three-year grant,” the news report further said. “Because the strains have been produced by publicly funded organizations, they do not require payment of royalties, such as those demanded by Monsanto and other commercial companies.”

“Rice bred to perform well in the toughest conditions where the poorest farmers grow rice is a step away from reaching farmers,” said IRRI in a statement. “The GSR varieties are climate-smart and can help farmers protect the environment – and themselves,” it added.

What makes GSR differ from other known varieties or hybrids before? “Unlike present-day rice plants, the new variety produces seed heads on every shoot,” wrote Bob Holmes, in an article which appeared in New Scientist. “This means that the plants do not waste energy on unproductive shoots. The plants also pack more than two hundred rice grains into each seed head compared with an average of around a hundred a head in present-day rice. In addition, the new ‘architecture; makes the rice plants more compact, allowing farmers to plant them more densely.”

The GSR has been called “super rice” because it is predicted to increase rice yields by 25-50%. “Plant breeders have developed a variety of rice that has the potential to yield a staggering 25% more than today’s best,” wrote Holmes in his report. “This is the first time in nearly thirty years that researchers have raised the ceiling on yields of rice, the grain that feeds half the world’s population.”

This is good news for Asia, where population continues to grow. “We know that for the next 10 years, we need to produce 8 to 10 million more tons (of rice) each year,” Dr. Achim Dobermann, IRRI’s deputy director general for research, was quoted as saying by LiveScience. “That would essentially enable us to keep pace with the growing population.”

But it’s not only population growth that should be prime motivation to develop new rice varieties. “Population growth, increasing demand from changing diets, dwindling land and water resources for agriculture, higher energy costs, and the huge uncertainties regarding the effects of climate change present scientists and policy makers with additional challenges,” wrote Vishakha N. Desai, president of the Asia Society, in the foreword of the report, “Never an Empty Bowl: Sustaining Food Security in Asia.”

In its recent issue of Rice Today, IRRI said that GSR is “already in the hands of national agricultural agencies in key rice-growing countries for testing and development.”

In the Philippines, the PhilRice is rolling out a massive adaptability trials under the High Yielding Technology Adaptation (HYTA) program of the Department of Agriculture.

According to Thelma Padolina, one of the implementers of the Food Staples Sufficiency Program’s Accelerating the development and adoption of Next-Generation rice varieties for major ecosystems in the Philippines project, three GSR materials were formally approved as commercial varieties in saline-prone and upland areas.

“These new varieties will be brought to the target areas through the Participatory Variety Selection (PVS) trials for better adoption,” she said.

The GSR is what the world needs now – especially with the looming global warming. “Climate change poses a big challenge to smallholder farmers who already have limited land and financial resources,” IRRI said. “Unpredictable weather patterns make them even more vulnerable to crop losses. Giving farmers access to GSR varieties that can withstand multiple stresses from climate change can help mitigate its impact on their livelihood.”

In addition, the research done with GSR does not involve genetic engineering. “It involves taking hundreds of donor cultivars from dozens of different countries, identifying significant variations in responses to drought, global warming and other problems, and ‘backcross’ breeding – painstakingly crossing a hybrid with one of its parents or with a plant genetically like one of its parents, then screening the backcross bulk populations after one or two backcrosses under severe abiotic and biotic stress conditions to identify transgressive segregants that are doing better than both parents and the checks,” explained an article which appeared in www.konfrontasi.com.

In the New Scientist feature, Holmes believes IRRI’s new rice variety plays a big important in the race to keep food production abreast of population growth. Dr. Mark Rosegrant, an economist with the Washington, D.C.-based International Food Policy Research Institute, was quoted as saying: “You still need to have yields grow at 2% per year over the next twenty years to keep rice consumption stable. There are not many ways you can get that except from this new rice.” (To be continued)



THE GRASS THAT FEEDS FILIPINOS

(Third of Five Parts)

“There’s so much misinformation floating around about GMOS that is taken as fact by people. The genes they inserted to make the vitamin are not some weird manufactured material, but are also found in squash, carrots and melons.” – Dr. Michael D. Purugganan, a professor of genomics and biology and the dean for science at New York University



***

“It takes many PhDs and more than 10 years to develop a genetically-modified organism (GMO). A handful of misguided militants needs only a few seconds to destroy it,” lamented Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco, Jr., one of the country’s most respected agricultural scientists.

He was then the executive director of the state-owned Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) when he said those words. He was talking about the destruction of the golden rice plants in a trial field in Pili, Camarines Sur. On August 8, 2013, more than 400 so-called “farmers” who uprooted the genetically modified crop that was nearly ready for harvest.

“This courageous action undertaken by the Peasant Movement of Bicol and the SIKWAL-GMO alliance was necessary to prevent the contamination of Asia’s most important food crop by GMOs,” said Asian Peasant Coalition (APC), a group of non-government organizations in Asia in a statement. GMO refers to genetically-modified organisms.

“The risks posed by field trials of golden rice may not mean much to (to those who conducted the field trials), but they are enormous for farmers and consumers in the Philippines and throughout Asia,” APC added. “There is no way to ensure that a GMO field trial does not contaminate neighboring fields.”

“I cried when I saw what was happening,” recalled Mary Jane Espina, the PhilRice’s research assistant of the Golden Rice Project. “The tears were not just for the destroyed crops and the wasted efforts. It was because of the fact that we are not stupid to toil for something that will destroy people’s lives.”

But contrary to what the militants claim, those who uprooted the rice plants were actually not farmers. “Farmers could never destroy plants,” Perfecto Joaquin, a farmer for 20 years in Nueva Ecija, replied of what he thinks about the incident. “First of all, we know that a big amount of money is needed to start a farm. Afterwards, you just destroy crops in a field? Much will be lost and that is destructive.”

The National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) considered it as an “act of sabotage of a lawfully and responsibly-conducted scientific experiment. This disruption is also an act of disrespect for the cause of scientific inquiry and disregards the hard work that has been invested in reaching this stage of the research.”

NAST, the country’s premier recognition and advisory body on science and technology, added, “Rather than use unfounded fears in making a decision, the scientific data from the sabotaged experiment would have provided the third set of solid observations about the field performance of golden rice.”

The field experiment in Pili, Camarines Sur was one of the thirteen multilocational trials started in 2012 in different parts of the country. The field testing was conducted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and PhilRice, which are both authorized by the government through the Department of Agriculture.

So contrary to the activists’ accusations, there is no private corporate involvement. In fact, the field testing was under the scrutiny of the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines, which oversees field testing of biotech crops.

Credited for discovering the golden rice were Ingo Potrykus, who was 65 at that time and was about to retire as a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, and Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg. “My team targeted vitamin A deficiency because this is one of the largest health problems worldwide,” said Potrykus.

According to IRRI, golden rice contains beta carotene, which is converted to vitamin A when eaten. “Because rice is so popular in the Philippines,” the Laguna-based rice institute says, “providing rice that is more nutritious and that contains beta carotene could help boost people’s vitamin A status. In turn, this could reduce the extent and impact of vitamin A deficiency among Filipinos.”

The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 250,000 to 500,000 children become blind each year because of a lack of vitamin A in their diets. Not only that, about half of these children die within 12 months.

Vitamin A deficiency also depresses the immune system, raising overall mortality among children from other causes such as diarrhea, measles, and pneumonia. For these diseases the additional toll is estimated at 1 million preventable deaths a year, or around 2,700 per day, mostly among children younger than 5.

Vitamin A is found naturally in many foods, including liver of chicken, beef, pork, and fish. Most of them, however, can be found in root crops (carrot and sweet potato) vegetables (broccoli and tomato), and milk products (cheese and butter), and fruits (papaya, mango, melon). Most of these sources are beyond the reach of poor people, particularly those living in shanty places, upland areas, and rural communities.

“We’re still losing one generation after another to malnutrition and this just shouldn’t be happening anymore,” deplores Dr. Howart Bouis, a senior research fellow at the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute.

Golden rice is one possible solution to the problem. Normally, rice plants produce beta-carotene in their green parts, but not the grain that people eat. Golden rice is genetically engineered to produce beta-carotene in the edible part of the plant.

Using genetic modification techniques, scientists developed golden rice using genes from corn and a common soil microorganism that together produce beta carotene in the rice grain. According to IRRI, conventional breeding programs could not be used to develop golden rice because rice varieties do not contain significant amounts of beta carotene.

IRRI describes golden rice as unique because it contains beta carotene which gives the golden color to the cereal (as well as to fruits and vegetables like squash, papaya and carrots). The body converts beta carotene in golden rice to Vitamin A as needed.

According to research published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2009, daily consumption of a cup of rice – about 150 grams uncooked weight – could supply half of the Recommended Daily Allowance of Vitamin A for an adult.

In 2005, scientists develop the current version of golden rice. In the Philippines, the first generation golden rice was first tested in advanced field trials in IRRI in 2008. The second generation of selected varieties was field tested in the wet season of 2010. At the PhilRice, confined field trials of advanced lines were conducted in February to June 2011.

“The field trials are an important step in evaluating the performance of golden rice and to determine if it can be planted, grown, and harvested just like other popular rice varieties,” PhilRice said in a statement. “These trials are also part of the safety assessment of golden rice.”

Farmers who produce organically grown crops currently co-exist with farmers who grow genetically modified crops and crops grown in conventional ways. ‘Co-existence’ is the practice of growing different kinds of crops, crops grown in different ways, or crops for different customers nearby or next to each other, while keeping the crops separate so they don’t mix and so their economic value is not affected.

“Golden rice could likewise co-exist with other crops, including other types of rice and rice grown in other ways such as in organic agriculture,” IRRI claims. “Golden rice is unlikely to impact organic agriculture through cross-pollination—also known as outcrossing or gene flow—for reasons that apply to all cultivated rice. Cross-pollination in rice is rare if plants are separated by a short distance of a few feet or meters and it can only occur when rice plants are flowering at the same time.

“Moreover, rice pollen is normally viable for only a few minutes after flowering. All these factors mean that organically-grown rice won’t usually cross-pollinate with another cultivated rice variety unless they are growing close together and flower at the same time,” IRRI adds.

To further minimize the possible accidental mixing of golden rice, if it is approved, with other rice varieties, “we plan to work with rice producers in areas where golden rice could be grown to develop guidelines for cultivation, harvest, transport, storage, and processing of rice to help keep it separate,” IRRI says.

Because it’s genetically modified, golden rice has faced opposition from environmental groups and others. “A rip-off of the public trust” was how the Rural Advancement Foundation International, an advocacy group based in Winnipeg, Canada, said of the nutrient-rich rice.

There are those who believe that golden rice is not the best answer to Vitamin A deficiency. “The problem is that you’re trying to fix vitamin A deficiency with a narrow GM solution when the problem is much more complex,” Clare Oxborrow, from the anti-GM group Friends of the Earth, was quoted as saying by BBC News. “People who are deficient in vitamin A are also deficient in a whole host of other vitamins and minerals. What are we going to do? Are we going to genetically modify a crop to address these issues, too?”

On the other hand, Greenpeace, which has made a concerted effort to block golden rice’s introduction since it was announced in 2000, claims that vitamin A-fortified rice may not be effective in delivering vitamin A to children. However, Tufts University and the Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences in China have already proven that golden rice is effective.

After conducting nutritional trials with animals and then adults in the United States, the researchers fed 23 Chinese children one meal of golden rice and tested to see if they had absorbed the beta carotene. The results, which were published in 2012 in the peer-reviewed “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” demonstrate conclusively that golden rice is, indeed, effective.

“The real reason Greenpeace is opposed to golden rice is because it is genetically modified and it can’t seem to imagine that even one beneficial crop might result from this technique,” writes Dr. Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace who helped lead the organization for 15 years but is now an independent ecologist and environmentalist. “It is willing to put its zero-tolerance ideology ahead of a critical humanitarian mission.” (To be continued)



THE GRASS THAT FEEDS FILIPINOS

(Fourth of Five Parts)

“The impact of hidden hunger on people’s health is very real. It can result in more frequent and severe illness and complications during pregnancy, childbirth, infancy, and childhood.” – International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)



***

Every night, an average Filipino joins at least 3.7 billion other people who go to sleep still hungry. Their hunger, however, is not the growling, aching kind that most people experience when they have not eaten a meal.

Rather, the hunger is somewhat silent and insidiously stunting their bodies and brains, weakening their immune systems, and sapping their energy. The prospects for living productive lives is questionable.

This hidden hunger – as most nutritionists called it – is called malnutrition and it contributes to killing an estimated 40,000 people every day!

“We’re still losing one generation after another to malnutrition and this just shouldn’t be happening anymore,” deplored Dr. Howard Bouis, a senior research fellow at the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute.

“One more rice, please.” That call, which rings at dining time in almost all restaurants and kitchenettes all over the country, sums up the eating habits of the typical Filipino to whom eating is a matter of filling up. Since most people can’t fill up with ulam (viand), they fill up with rice.

A study research done in 2009 to 2010 and conducted by Southeast Asian Regional Center (SEARCA) commissioned by the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PRRI) said that Filipinos eat an average of 119 kilograms of rice annually. Another research found that Filipinos consume about 4-5 cups of cooked rice per day.

Nutritionists claim rice contains carbohydrates, protein, minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Most of the white rice available in the supermarket is enriched, which means it is supplemented with iron, niacin, and thiamine. But most of these added nutrients are lost if rice is washed before cooking or drained afterward.

Brown rice, with its healthful bran layers, contains all these nutrients naturally, plus fiber, oil and vitamin E. It is also low in sodium and fat, with no cholesterol.

Since rice is consumed in great amounts, the cereal is a good vehicle for solving the malnutrition problem in the Philippines. And this can be done by food fortification.

According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), food fortification is “the addition of one or more essential nutrients to a food, whether or not it is normally contained in the food, for the purpose of preventing or correcting a demonstrated deficiency in one or more nutrients in the population of specific population groups in which a risk of nutrient deficiency has been identified.”

One of the nutrients identified as lacking in Filipino diet is iron. “Iron is one of the most important minerals in the body,” a press release issued by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) explained.

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the significant function of iron is to carry oxygen in the hemoglobin or red blood cells throughout the body so cells can produce energy. Thus, it enhances body strength, activates brain performance, and boosts body resistance against sickness. Iron also helps eliminate carbon dioxide from the body.

However, the recommended level of iron in the body is classified by gender and age. Males aging from 14 to 18 are recommended with 11 milligrams, and aged 19 and above must have 8 milligrams daily intake. The daily intakes for females aged 14 to 18, 19 to 50, and 51 and above must have 15 milligrams, 18 milligrams, and 8 milligrams, respectively. This indicates that females need more iron than males.

A person who does not get enough iron from his diet will have a lower hemoglobin level. “If this condition is prolonged, one will be suffering from iron deficiency anemia or IDA,” warns FNRI, a line agency of DOST.

IDA develops when body stores of iron drop too low to support normal red blood cell production. “In the Philippines, IDA is very serious across population groups,” FNRI says, adding it is most common among newly-born babies (from 6-11 months old) and pregnant women.

Among children, the consequences of IDA include poor scholastic performance due to poor cognition, low attention span, and frequent attacks of illness due to lowered immune response.

Low and poor productivity due to easy fatigability are what adults experience when they have IDA. Pregnant women with IDA, on the other hand, may suffer from stillbirths, miscarriages and hemorrhage, or worst, death of the baby.

In a recent National Nutrition Survey, it was found that the Philippines has national iron-deficiency prevalence rate of 11%. Another nutritional survey suggested that about 50% of the iron intake, even among high-income households, comes from the cereals, particularly rice and corn.

Balancing cereal-based diets with vegetables and animal products is one approach used in some developing countries to address malnutrition problems. But results were frustrating. Vegetables and animal products are expensive, and seasonal, subject to spoilage because of limited storage and transport facilities.

In 2000, the government signed the Food Fortification Law or Republic Act No. 8976. It stipulates mandatory fortification of staples like rice with iron and voluntary fortification of processed foods with iron, vitamin A and/or iodine.

In 2004, the National Food Authority (NFA) fortified rice with iron. “NFA led the implementation of the law and has imported iron premix rice (IPR) fortified with ferrous sulfate using coating technology from the United States as no locally produced IPR was available at that time,” said a briefing paper on iron-fortified rice (IFR).

The IFR was distributed to already “identified nutritionally-at-risk areas” through Food for Schools Program. Unfortunately, the NFA fortified rice was less accepted by consumers due to the dark yellow-colored iron premix in rice and the darkening color of cooked rice. In 2010, NFA stopped the importation of IPR and is now committed to utilizing locally-produced IPR.

For its part, FNRI developed IPR made from rice flour blended with iron – with micronized dispersible ferric pyrophosphate as fortificant – using extrusion technology, which proved to be stable for one-year storage with iron content still retained.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information said ferric pyrophosphate is “a water-insoluble iron compound used to fortify infant cereals and chocolate drink powders.”

In a study conducted among school children in a public school in Pasig, it was found that there was “a very significant decline in anemia prevalence from 100% to 33%.” The IFR was rated as “liked moderately” to “liked very much.”

The ancient Indian name for rice, dhanya, meaning “sustainer of the human race,” indicates its age-old importance. In Java, where it is the gift of the goddess Dewi Siri, people believe that rice has a soul and may be spoken to as a relative.

An old Chinese relief for aching bones, stomach upsets and colds was toasted brown rice and minced ginger root simmered in wine, tied in cloth and rubbed on the joints, stomach or chest.

“Grain upon grain, fresh and delightful as frost, a dazzling jewel, to what can I compare this treasure,” wrote Chinese poet Yang Ji. (To be concluded)



THE GRASS THAT FEEDS FILIPINOS

(Fifth of Five Parts)

“Ten thousand years have passed since the current pleasantly temperate period began, so another sudden shift is overdue. The notion that greenhouse gases could trigger such a rapid change keeps serious scientists up at night… And since scientists today have little understanding of past climate flips, it’s impossible to say when the next one will start.” Gregg Easterbrook in A Skeptical Guide to Doomsday



***

Rice production in the Philippines and those in other parts of the world will greatly be affected by climate, experts claim.

“Increasing carbon dioxide leads to increased photosynthesis and potentially, more rice biomass. But concurrent increases in global temperatures could also potentially limit rice harvests by increasing spikelet sterility,” explained Dr. Lewis H. Ziska of the Crop Systems and Global Change Laboratory at the United States Department of Agriculture. “More carbon dioxide could also increase the biomass of known weeds when compared with that of rice, which could limit rice growth in the future.”

“Higher temperature, especially in tropical areas that are already near or above the optimum temperature for rice, will reduce growth and yields,” noted Dr. Keith Ingram, former global climate change coordinator at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Rising temperatures during the past 25 years have already cut the yield growth rate by 10–20% in several locations, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), a peer-reviewed, scientific journal from the United States.

As nights get hotter, as predicted with climate change, rice yields will drop. “We found that as the daily minimum temperature increases, or as nights get hotter, rice yields drop,” said Jarrod Welch, lead author of the report and graduate student of economics at the University of California, San Diego.

The report analyzed 6 years of data from 227 irrigated rice farms in 6 major rice-growing countries in Asia, which produces more than 90% of the world’s rice. “Our study is unique because it uses data collected in farmers’ fields, under real-world conditions,” said Welch. “This is an important addition to what we already know from controlled experiments.”

The problem is just the tip of an iceberg. Recent studies have shown that should farmers grow more rice, it means more methane will be emitted into the atmosphere. “Rice production also contributes to global warming as it emits methane,” said Dr. Constancio Asis, Jr. supervising science research specialist at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.

“Rice is a plant that grows best in wet soil, with its roots flooded,” says L. Hartwell Allen, an American soil scientist at the Crops Genetics and Environmental Research Unit in Gainesville, Florida. “But flooded rice crops emit substantial amounts of methane to the atmosphere.”

Scientists explain that long-term flooding of the fields cuts the soil off from atmospheric oxygen and causes anaerobic fermentation of organic matter in the soil. During the wet season, rice cannot hold the carbon in anaerobic conditions. The microbes in the soil convert the carbon into methane which is then released through the respiration of the rice plant or through diffusion of water.

On the other hand, decomposition of organic material in flooded rice fields produces methane, which then escapes to the atmosphere during the growing season. “Traditionally, farmers flood their rice fields continuously and incorporate 4-5 tons of rice straw per hectare at land preparation,” says a report released by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD). “Every year, these practices release 5,883 tons of methane to the atmosphere.”

In Isabela State University, a study funded by PCARRD showed that by using simple science-based strategies, farmers can contribute significantly to the reduction of methane emissions. For instance, mid-season drainage of irrigation water reduced methane emission by 48 percent. This emission is valued at P34.16 million, based on the 2009 World Bank price of US$12 per ton of carbon dioxide and exchange rate of P48 per US$1.

Meanwhile, composting of rice straw resulted in 64 percent less methane emission released in the air. By combining mid-season drainage and application of rice straw compost, methane emission is further reduced by 81 percent.

“By shifting to climate-change friendly farming practices, as what was done in the 7,789.34 hectares of lowland irrigated rice in Isabela, farmers can get incremental benefits amounting to as high as P138.95 million per year,” the PCARRD report points out.

Rice farmers can also help reduce methane emissions into the atmosphere by adopting controlled irrigation or alternate wetting and drying (AWD) technology.

Developed by the Laguna-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), AWD is a technology which allowed rice fields to dry for a certain period before applying irrigation water.

Also called controlled irrigation or intermittent irrigation, AWD technology can actually save farmers almost one-third of irrigation water without sacrificing yields. It also saves farm inputs like oil, fuel, and labor being utilized on the operation of water pumps.

On an 8-season field experiment conducted at IRRI, it was found that AWD “has real potential to reduce the global warming impact of paddy fields to one-third of the conventional continuously-flooded field water management.”

In a paper presented during the international workshop on “Water Management and Technology for Crop Production under Climate Change” in Suwon, Korea, the authors claimed AWD “can reduce methane emissions by over 40%.”

Rice fields using this technology are alternately flooded and dried. The number of days of non-flooded soil can vary from one day to more than 10 days, according to IRRI. It uses an “observation well” that is made of bamboo, plastic pipes, or any hollow indigenous material. Perforations are made in the lower half of the tube.

The AWD technology can be started a few days after transplanting (or with a 10-centimeter tall crop in direct seeding). When many weeds are present, AWD can be postponed for 2-3 weeks until weeds have been suppressed by the ponded water. Local fertilizer recommendations as for flooded rice can be used. Nitrogen fertilizer maybe applied preferably on the dry soil just before irrigation.

“A practical way to implement AWD technology is by monitoring the depth of the water table in the field using a simple perforated field water tube,” IRRI explains. “When the water level is 15 centimeters below the surface of the soil, it is time to flood the soil to a depth of around 5 centimeters at the time of flowering, from one week before to one week after the maximum flowering.”

The water in the rice field is kept at 5 centimeters depth to avoid any water stress that would result in severe loss in rice grain yield. The threshold of water level at 15centimeters is called “safe AWD,” as this will not cause any yield decline because the roots of the rice plants are still be able to take up water from the saturated soil and move it to root zone.

“The field water tube used in this technology will help to measure the water level in the field so that incipient water stress in the rice plants can be anticipated,” the IRRI points out. As such, the AWD technology does not only save water but can greatly reduce emissions of methane.

Dr. Drew Shindell, a climatologist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University in New York, once said: “If we control methane, which is viable, then we are likely to soften global warming more than one would have thought, so that’s a very positive outcome.” – ###
TOBACCO STORY OF THE YEAR
“IS TOBACCO THE NEXT ‘MIRACLE CROP’?”
IAN OCAMPO FLORA
SUNSTAR PAMPANGA
This story talks about all the practical and commercially viable uses that are being discovered for tobacco. It can also be used as a pond sanitizer, fertilizer, insecticie and molluscide. Tobacco can be a cheaper alternative for various agricultural applications so that no part of the tobacco plant would go to waste. This benefits the country’s tobacco growing areas and can provide additional income for tobacco farmers.
FULL STORY
Is Tobacco The Next ‘Miracle Crop’?
TOBACCO STORY OF THE YEAR

“IS TOBACCO THE NEXT ‘MIRACLE CROP’?”

IAN OCAMPO FLORA


CITY OF THE SAN FERNANDO — Tobacco has been a vilified plant and was certainly not regarded as a miracle crop, but all this is about to change as more practical and commercially viable uses are being discovered from this high-value crop.

And much of it is for agricultural use which means that the crop will no longer be the exclusive darling of cigarette manufacturers but of groups as diverse as agri-entrepreneurs, fishpond owners, fertilizer manufacturers and organic farmers.

The sight of green and healthy tobacco leaves under the noonday sun is enough to excite any tobacco farmer about high yields. But for agriculture researchers, tobacco could be so much more that is now becoming an emerging miracle crop and for good reason.

Tobacco waste like dust, tobacco stalks and discarded tobacco leaves are now promising components for various agricultural applications.

The National Tobacco Administration (NTA) said that tobacco is grown in 23 provinces spanning about 30,352 hectares. And with industry data showing that tobacco has recently emerged as one of the country's fastest growing crops, this means that there is enough tobacco for such agricultural applications.

Tobacco soil conditioner

Tobacco dust, which is generally produced during the commercial processing of tobacco, is now seen as a viable alternative soil conditioner and as an additional component to organic fertilizer. Tobacco dust, an agro-industrial waste, can be applied to the soil to recycle and replenish essential nutrients that have been depleted.

Such is the viability of tobacco dust that the NTA, in collaboration with government agencies, rolled out processed tobacco dust under the name Tobacco Dust Plus (TDP) as an environment-friendly pesticide and organic fertilizer. In 2014, the NTA started to commercially manufacture TDP in a plant in Sto. Tomas town in La Union.

Applied as a fertilizer, tobacco dust, in combination with organic compost, can serve as soil conditioner. A study by Sarah Shakeel of the Kinnaird College on tobacco dust showed that when applied to the soil, tobacco dust reintroduce nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium back into the soil that plants have consumed from the soil.

The study showed that tobacco dust is rich in nitrogen. Potassium and phosphorous which can provide essential nutrients to the soil and plant. Local data from the Department of Agriculture (DA) also showed that tobacco dust, when mixed with organic compost has positive effects on the growth of vegetable and house-plants due to its nitrogen content.

Studies showed that use of tobacco dust is an eco-friendly management strategy for soil management with negligible impact on the environment as it is organic and leaves no chemical residue.

Tobacco insecticide

The use of a tobacco as an insecticide is not a new thing. For hundreds of years, water-based solutions made from tobacco had been used to kill insects.

Tobacco’s herbicide potency is due to its nicotine content. Among the three types of tobacco plants grown in the country, Virginia tobacco has the lowest nicotine content. Burley tobacco comes higher in terms of nicotine content followed by the native tobacco which has the highest.

The DA confirms that nicotine in tobacco deters garden pests and is very potent against creatures such as slugs and aphids. Tobacco tea, made from tobacco leaves and stalks, is used by gardeners to kill garden pests. Tobacco tea, used as spray against insects, is processed from boiling dried tobacco materials.

The DA however cautions the use of tobacco on tomatoes (Lycopersiconesculentum), potatoes (Solanumtuberosum) and peppers (Capsicum spp.) as this may transmit the tobacco mosaic virus and cause more problems for these plants. But all beneficial use considered, tobacco insecticide is still an environment-friendly and cost efficient alternative to synthetic pesticide.

Tobacco pond sterilizer

Almost a decade of research done by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), Philippine Council for Aquaculture and Marine Resources Research and Development (PCAMRRD) and the NTA have proven the effectiveness of tobacco for sterilization of fishponds.

Field tests conducted in Pampanga, Bulacan, Pangasinan and Ilocos Sur all showed positive results. Today tobacco dusts is popularly used by pond owners in Pangasinan and La Union.

The application is simple, when the ponds are cleared of water, tobacco dust is applied to kill predators that would harm the stocked fingerlings. Eliminating the predators would ensure the healthy growth of the stocks as well as the availability of the natural food in the pond. In the past, farmers actually use dried and sometimes crushed tobacco leaves and spread these on the pond bottom. The availability of TDP helps greatly in the making the process efficient.

Tobacco dust is preferred by pond owners as it reduces the organic waste from tobacco and does not leave any chemical residue on the pond. Tobacco dust has also been found to promote the proliferation of lablab (plankton) that serve as natural food source for fish stocks.

However, after being introduced in in 2012, tobacco dust is still yet to be introduced extensively for commercial use especially outside the tobacco producing regions especially in Central Luzon, a major center of the aqua-culture industry.

Central Luzon’s was ranked fifth in terms of fish production in 2015 accounting for 39.2 percent (or some P31-billion worth) of the country’s production. While only placing fifth, Central Luzon had the highest value of harvest with 41.3 percent for its aqua-culture harvest for 2015.

Of the Central Luzon provinces, Pampanga, where tobacco dust was first tested, is known not only in the region but in the whole country as the Tilapia Capital of the Philippines. Using tobacco dust for pond preparation would mean a decrease in the use of chemicals for pond sterilization which means more savings for fish pond owners.

Tobacco molluscicide

Tobacco juice, tobacco dust juice and tobacco lime are not only for traditional organic insecticide used in domestic gardening but also for mainstream commercial agriculture.

Tobacco has been proven effective against a variety of snails like the brackish water pond snails (Cerithideacingulata Gmelin) which are usually pests in brackish water ponds and golden apple snails (Pomaceacanaliculata) that pester rice farms in the country.

Studies conducted by a team from the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (Seafdec) in Tigbauan, Iloilo under Dr. Joebert D. Toledo had proven tobacco dust to be effective against predatory snails and other creatures that exist in ponds and fish pens.

Parasitic trematodes, that are harmful against young fish stocks, require an intermediate host like snails to thrive. And since tobacco dust is toxic to pond snails, parasites that harm fish stocks are effectively controlled.

Tobacco also has positive uses in rice cultivation. A research of James, et al. from PhilRice-Batac demonstrated the use of tobacco scrap before and after transplanting to control harmful snail populations in rice fields. The field test was done in seven municipalities of Ilocos Norte.

The research revealed that weekly use of tobacco scraps significantly reduced the population of golden kuhol from 60 to 90 percent.

"The affected area was minimized by 80 percent and damaged hills by 84 percent. Where farmers' practice and no treatment were employed, an average 23.39 percent and 4 percent reduction in population were observed, respectively," the research said.

Rice plants treated with tobacco scraps had better crop stand, greener leaves, and taller plants, the study added. The study also showed that fields treated with tobacco scraps produced the highest yield per hectare (7.37 t/ha) compared to farmers' practice (6.38 t/ha) and no control (6.19 t/ha).

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) also recommends the use of tobacco leaves, heartleaf pickerelweed, and citrus leaves in strips across the fields as these plants are toxic to snails. If uncontrolled, the IRRI said that snails can destroy 1 m2 of field overnight. This damage could lead to more than 50 percent yield loss.

Impacts on agriculture

While government had been actively promoting the use of tobacco dust, the issue of adequate promotion and availability of tobacco material are the main reasons why tobacco is still not actively used for agricultural application.

Tobacco can virtually offset the need for synthetic chemical pesticide. The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said that pesticide on farmlands usually cost farmers some P1,827 per hectare each cropping season.

The use of tobacco for aqua-culture both helps tobacco farmers increase their yield and fishermen increase their catch. The study conducted by th Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center showed that fish mortality decreased from 20 percent to 5 percent, saving fish farmers of at least P20,000 on production cost per hectare each grow-out cycle when tobacco was used to control pond pests and parasites. And since tobacco is organic, it breaks down completely and leaves no residue on fish unlike chemical pesticide.

All these mean that tobacco could be used as a cheaper alternative to various agricultural applications and that no part of the tobacco plant would go to waste.

The use of tobacco for agricultural applications may increase the benefits for tobacco growing areas, and may serve as source of additional income and provides a safety net for farmers who continuously suffer from government’s anti-smoking campaign.
BEST AGRICULTURE TV PROGRAM OR SEGMENT
AGRI TAYO DITO: BIOTECHNOLOGY SERIES ABS-CBN REGIONAL
KARREN MONTEJO
PRODUCER
In this four part series, Agri Tayo Dito takes an in-depth look at Biotechnology. There has been massive public misperception on the safety Biotechnology to environment and health neglecting its full potential in improving the lives of many Filipinos. In this series, Agri Tayo Dito extensively discusses the facts, importance, benefits, issues, the future, and the science of Biotechnology and how it is considered as one of the shining hopes for our country’s food security and the agriculture sector.
FULL STORY
BIOTECHNOLOGY PART 1 AGRI TAYO DITO
BEST AGRICULTRE TV PROGRAM OR SEGMENT

AGRI TAYO DITO: BIOTECHNOLOGY SERIES

KARREN MONTEJO, PRODUCER
BEST AGRICULTURE RADIO PROGRAM OR SEGMENT
BIDA SPECIALS: VERMI COMPOSTING SA URBAN HOUSEHOLD
MALU MANAR
DXND-KIDAPAWAN
This episode of Bida Specials focuses on the African Night Crawler or ANC Dormitel which was discovered by Julito Saladan, an agricultural technologist from Kidapawan City and how this discover helps in solid waste management in urban household.
FULL STORY
BIDA SPECIALS
BIDA SPECIALS

Episode Title: Vermi Composting sa Urban Household

MALU MANAR, DXND-KIDAPAWAN


Part 1

Intro

PROBLEMA n’yo ba kung saan itatapon ang nabubulok na mga basura? Lalo na kapag ‘di pa iskedyul ng dump truck na kumulekta ng ganyang klase’ng basura?


Ang iba, sa mga ilog o kanal na itinatapon ang mga basura.


Walang paki kung nasisira na ang mga daluyan ng tubig o ang mismong kalikasan sa nakatambak na mga basura.


Mas malaki ang problema sa pagtatapon ng mga basura sa urban household.


Mga kaibigan, may sagot na sa problemang ito.


Ito ang African Night Crawler o ANC dormitel na imbensyon ng isang agricultural technologist na si Mang Julito Saladan na taga-Kidapawan City.


SOT: JULITO 1

“Ako si… kaniadtong 2013.”


ANG AFRICAN NIGHT crawler dormitel na ito ang nagsisilbing imbakan ng mga nabubulok na basura na maaaring gawing abono sa mga tanim sa tulong na rin ng African Night Crawler na isang klase ng bulate o earthworm.


Mga kaibigan, tampok sa BIDA SPECIALS ang katangi-tanging imbensyon ni Mang Julito at ang kahalagahan nito sa solid waste management sa urban household sa episode na may pamagat na –


‘VERMI COMPOSTING SA URBAN HOUSEHOLD’


Ako si Malu Cadelina Manar at ito ang BIDA SPECIALS.


Part 2

Vermi Composting at Urban Household


ANG VERMI COMPOST ay produkto ng composting process o pagpapabulok gamit ang iba’t ibang klase ng mga bulate, katulad ng Red Wiglers, White Worm, at iba pang klase mga composting materials.


Magiging pagkain ng mga bulateng ito para makagawa ng vermi-cast o abono ang iba’t ibang klase ng mga nabubulok na basura.


Ang vermi-cast o abono’ng ito, kapag inihalo sa lupa, ang tutulong para yumabong ang mga tanim.


Ibig sabihin, ang nabubulok na mga basura napakikinabangan sa bukid sa pamamagitan ng vermi-composting.


Bahagi ito ng tinatawag na, ‘organic farming’ o organikong uri ng pagsasaka.


MUSIC (Bed): Up and under


KUNG sa mga kanayunan nagagamit bilang abono ang nabubulok na mga basura sa kanilang mga pananim, e, kumusta naman ang sa urban household o sa mga metropolitan area?


Papaano ba ang solid waste management sa mga highly-urbanized cities?


MUSIC (Bed): Up and Under

SFX: Noise in the metropolitan


NABATID sa pag-aaral na ang Metro Manila ang responsable sa 25 porsiento ng mga nakukulektang basura sa buong Pilipinas, sa araw-araw.


Abot sa walong libo at anim na raang (8,600) tonelada ng basura sa araw-araw ang itinatapon sa iba’t ibang mga dumpsite o sanitary landfill sa buong National Capital Region.


PUNTA tayo sa North Cotabato…


MUSIC

SFX


SA KIDAPAWAN City na isa sa lumalaki at umuunlad na lungsod sa rehiyon dose, problema ang pag-manage ng mga basura.


SOT: JULITO 2

“Nakakita kita sa pamaagi… disposal sites.”


BASE SA DATA mula sa City Environment and Natural Resources, abot sa tatlumpong tonelada ng basura ang itinatapon ng mga residente ng Kidapawan City, kada araw.


Sa mga basurang ito, animnapu’t lima ang nabubulok o bio-degradable.


Napatunayan sa mga pag-aaral na kapag hindi maayos ang pag-manage sa ganito’ng klase ng mga basura, sasailalim ito sa tinatawag na, ‘an-aerobic decomposition’.


Ibig sabihin nito, habang nabubulok ang basura sa mga disposal site, naglalabas ito ng mabahong amoy o methane gas.


Ang methane ay isang uri ng greenhouse gas na nagsasanhi ng global warming o ito’ng pag-init ng mundo.


SOT: JULITO 3

“Ang concept… kinaiyahan.”


SA GANITO’NG konsepto sinimulan ng agricultural technologist ang kanyang imbensyon na tutugon sa problema sa basura sa mga urban household, tulad ng sa Kidapawan City.


Tinawag ni Mang Julito ang kanyang imbensyon na, “African Night Crawler Dormitel.”


ANG AFRICAN Night Crawler ay isang uri ng bulate na ginagamit sa paggawa ng vermi-cast o abono.


Ang scientific name nito ay Eudrilus eugeniae.


Kinokonsidera ito na pinakamahusay na klase ng composting earthworm sa mga bansang tropical o mga bansa na matatagpuan sa equatorial region ng daigdig, tulad ng Pilipinas.


Noon pang taong 1981 ginamit ang African Night Crawler sa vermi-composting sa mga bansang tropical.


Kwento ni Mang Julito, ang bulateng ito ay dinala sa Pilipinas ng isang Dr. Rafael Guerrero III mula sa West Germany noong 1982.


Pero ang bulateng ito raw ay nagmula umano sa West Africa.


SOT: JULITO 4

“Asa gikan ang African…urban household.”


Part 3

Research and invention


TAONG 2013 natapos ni Mang Julito ang research patungkol sa kanyang imbensyon na kung tawagin niya ay, “African Night Crawler Dormitel.”


Ang compost chamber na ito ay naka-desinyo para sa urban household na wala nang espasyo o lugar para itapon ang mga basura, lalo na ang mga nabubulok.


Taong 2014 nang makarating sa kaalaman ng Department of Agriculture sa Region 12 ang naturang imbensyon.


At para ma-test kung gaano ito ka-epektibo, namahagi noong taong 2015 ang DA ng mga sample ng ANC dormitel sa mga urban household sa rehiyon dose, kabilang na rito ang General Santos City, Koronadal City, Tacurong City, Cotabato City, at Kidapawan City.


SOT: JULITO 5

“Kay kini nga gadget… mga 2015.”


ANG AFRICAN Night Crawler Dormitel ay may tatlong layer.


Ang unang layer ay nagsisilbing taga-salo o catchment ng leachate o sobrang tubig na ginamit sa pagdilig ng substrates o surface material na ginamit pantakip sa nabubulok na mga basura.


Ang pangalawa at pangatlong layer ang nagsisilbing imbakan o chamber ng mga basura para sa vermi-composting.


Natatakpan ito ng ultra-fine mesh net na 100 percent polyethylene para maiwasang makapasok sa naturang chamber o layer ang mga langaw.


SOT: JULITO 6

“Ang kini nga composting… pre-decompost.”


BAGAMA’T sa West Africa nanggaling ang African Night Crawler na bulate, marami nang mga asosasyon o grupo ng mga magsasaka ang nagko-culture nito – tatlumpu’t anim na taon matapos ma-introduce ito sa Pilipinas ni Dr. Rafael Guerrero III ng Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development ng Department of Science and Technology.


Sa Kidapawan City, ang African Night Crawler at iba pang klase ng bulate ay maaaring mabili sa Kidapawan City Vermi Research Association, at sa ilan pang mga indibidwal.


Kada kilo ng bulateng ito nagkakahalaga ng tatlong daan hanggang limang daang piso.


Ang bulateng ito ay inilalagay sa second layer ng chamber o o itong pre-decompost area kung saan nangyayari ang unti-unting pagkabulok ng mga basura.


Ang pantakip sa nabubulok na mga basura ay galing din sa organikong bagay, halimbawa, mga dahon ng madre cacao; maliliit na mga kahoy; ipa ng palay; o kaya naman bagaso o sawdust.


Ang tawag sa mga materyales na ito ay substrates.


Kailangang diligan ng tubig ang naturang mga basura at substrates para mamintina ang halumigmig o moisture content.


SOT: JULITO 7

“No’ng dinistribute ko… pagkaon per day.”


ANG AFRICAN Night Crawler dormitel na imbensyon ni Mang Julito ay hindi naglalabas ng masangsang na amoy o ito’ng methane gas o ammonia.


Kaya’t OK lang na ilagay sa loob ng kusina ang dormitel para deretso nang itatapon dito ang mga basura na nanggaling sa mga isda, karne, gulay, prutas, at iba pang mga bagay na nabubulok.


SOT: JULITO 8

“Dili siya baho… ammonia.”


Part 5

Mang Julito and his award


ANG IMBENSYON na ito ni Mang Julito at ang kahusayan niya sa trabaho ang naging dahilan para mapili siya bilang isa sa mga, “Outstanding Government Employee of the Year” ng Civil Service Commission noong 2017.


Tumanggap si Mang Julito ng plaque at cash na P100 thousand mula sa CSC sa awarding ceremony sa kalakhang Maynila, noong nakaraang taon.


Bahagi raw ng cash na natanggap niya ginamit niya sa paggawa ng mga African Night Crawler Dormitel.


SOT: JULITO 9

“Yes, kay gi-entry… cash.”


KUNG si Mang Julito ang tatanungin, ang ANC dormitel na kanyang naimbento ay makatutulong para sa solid waste management sa urban household.


Maaari din siya’ng pagkuhanan ng abono o vermi-cast na makatutulong para sa pagpapataba ng lupa at sa pagpapayabong ng mga tanim kaya’t mahalaga ito sa urban greening program ng gubyerno.


Sa pamamagitan rin ng compost chamber na ito naiiwasan ang kontaminasyon ng tubig sa ilog at sa kanal mula sa mga basurang itinatapon ng mga mamamayan.


AT HIGIT sa lahat, tumutulong ito mapanumbalik ang balanse sa kalikasan ng mundo at mapigilan ang global warming o pag-init ng mundo at climate change o pabagu-bagong klima ng panahon.


Sa kabila nito, nahaharap sa isang mas malaking hamon si Mang Julito – ito ang social acceptability o ang pagtanggap ng mga nasa urban area o metropolitan sa ganitong uri ng teknolohiya.


Naging halimbawa ni Mang Julito sa kanyang naging karanasan ang nangyari sa taga-Batoon Subdivision sa Barangay Manongol sa Kidapawan City.


SOT: JULITO 9

“Daghan… opo.”


Part 6

Conclusion


MALAKING hamon nga sa mga metropolitan o highly-urbanized cities ang matinding problema sa basura.


Kapag lumalaki o umuunlad ang isang lugar, lumalaki at mas bumibigat pa ang kanilang mga basura.


Ang basura, kapag hindi na-manage nang maayos, ay sisira o papatay ng kalikasan, halimbawa, ng daluyan ng tubig at mapagkukuhanan ng tubig-maiinom.


Dito papasok ang ka-importansiya ng African Night Crawler na imbensyon ng taga-Kidapawan City na si Julito Saladan.


Natatangi ang kanyang imbensyon.


Sinasagot na nito ang problema sa global warming at tumutulong pa sa pagpapanumbalik sa katabaan fertility ng lupa.


Ang vermi-cast na napo-prodyus ng ANC dormitel ay maaaring gamitin sa backyard gardening sa mga urban household.


Kaya’t sa totoo lang, ang basura ay maaari namang mapakinabangan – ang mga hindi nabubulok o non-biodegradable ay puwede’ng i-recycle o gamiting muli o kaya ibenta at mapagkakitaan.


Ang mga nabubulok namang basura mula sa mga URBAN HOUSEHOLD ay maaaring gamitin para sa VERMI-COMPOSTING.


Ang kailangan lamang ay maging bukas ang tao sa ganitong teknolohiya.


Ako si MALU CADELINA MANAR at ito ang BIDA SPECIALS.
BEST AGRICULTURE NEWS STORY-NATIONAL
SNAPSHOT OF RICE-CONSUMPTION DATA REMAINS GRAINY AS PINOYS GRAPPLE WITH SUPPLY, PRICES
JASPER EMMANUEL ARCALAS AND CAI ORDINARIO
BUSINESS MIRROR
This story shows how important it is to accurately determine the country’s rice consumption and the various factors that need to be considered. In the past, the studies being used yielded inconsistent information. Having updated data on the country’s rice supply and demand would help government policy makers. Now, government agencies have begun implenting more updated studies to get an accurate and more comprehensive picture of the country’s food consumption.
FULL STORY
Snapshot Of Rice-Consumption Data Remains Grainy As Pinoys Grapple With Supply, Prices
BEST AGRICULTURE NEWS STORY-NATIONAL

SNAPSHOT OF RICE-CONSUMPTION DATA REMAINS GRAINY AS PINOYS GRAPPLE WITH SUPPLY, PRICES

JASPER EMMANUEL ARCALAS AND CAI ORDINARIO




Snapshot of rice-consumption data remains grainy as Pinoys grapple with supply, prices


AS Filipinos’ appetite for rice becomes as big as its political-economic implication, a snapshot of data on its consumption remains grainy.


This is so because the government uses two data sets to estimate the amount of rice consumed by every Filipino. Having two data sets to compute for a single amount can result in data discrepancies that make rice demand and supply difficult to evaluate.


The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) releases the Supply Utilization Accounts (SUA) of selected agricultural commodities and the results of the Food Consumption Survey (FCS).


According to PSA Assistant National Statistician Vivian R. Ilarina, the SUA is based on production while the FCS is based on a survey that doesn’t separate the consumption of rice from other “cereals.”


The SUA treats rice consumption as merely residual after computing rice stocks and removing exports and waste, among others.


“You estimate first the stocks plus the stocks available at the beginning of the year plus the local production plus imports—some of that—less use and disposition like exports, waste, processing, feeds, seeds—everything—then you have the closing stock, which [also comes] from the survey of the PSA,” Ilarina said.


“When you compare the left side equation to the right side, there is a residual. And this represents now the total consumption, which is available for food. This is not yet considered actual food consumption. In the survey of food demand, that is actual consumption,” she added.


Evaluating actual consumption is important as some sectors are pushing for unbridled entry of rice into the system while its price is being marked by runaway increases and a possible phantom shortage.


Ingrained


RICH and poor households always have rice included in their budgets. It is the cheapest source of carbohydrates and is most compatible with Filipino dishes.


Based on interviews conducted by the BusinessMirror, a low-income family consumes three to four kilos of rice per week—around 12 kilos to 16 kilos per month—relative to the number of members and their appetite.


Due to the recent increase in rice prices, households shell out more pesos to pay for goods. This is especially true for lower-income households, especially those at the bottom of the pyramid.


University of the Philippines School of Statistics Dean Dennis S. Mapa said food items, including rice, account for 70 percent of the household budget of Filipinos earning less than average. About 39 percent of an average Filipino household’s budget is for food items.


This makes the poor even more sensitive to increases in food prices, including rice, Mapa explained.


Of course, we are affected by high rice prices, Reynaldo Teñuso, a resident of Malolos, Bulacan, told the BusinessMirror. Teñuso added this becomes even more felt when the price of a kilo of rice increases P1 or P2 more.


To save on costs associated with cooking at home, some households resort to buying cooked rice, usually at P10 per cup, from a store.


For three meals a day, this means P30 ($0.56) per day and about P210 or nearly $4 per week.


A more affluent household with five members can buy 25 kilos to 100 kilos a month. An affluent family of eight could buy 50 kilos of rice a month.


This, even if richer families have more financial means to buy other sources of carbohydrates.


Dagupan City resident Almira Chu, whose family owns a local hotel, said rice remains as their best daily source of carbohydrates.


Apart from rice, the meals in more affluent households include vegetables and meat. This could be one key difference between rich and poor households—the ability to buy other commodities to accompany their meals.


Unlike poor Filipinos who adjust their consumption just to make ends meet, rich families will continue to buy their set monthly consumption—no matter the price.


“Even if the price of rice is increased, our consumption remains the same since rice is the most important for a Filipino family,” Josefina V. Castañeda, municipal mayor of Lingayen, Pangasinan, said.


All rice


RICE consumption levels also differ according to age and occupation.


While older Filipinos would be content with half a cup or just a cup of rice per meal, students or those in their teens and 20s would consume more than double this amount.


Some young Filipinos would consume two cups to as much as four to five cups of rice every meal. This has made many of them regular patrons of restaurants that offer unlimited rice. They also rely on the seemingly “unlimited” nature of rice supply at home.


Jade, 19, said she usually consumes two cups per meal or six cups a day to as many as nine cups a day, thanks to “unlimited rice” offers by restaurants. Carlos, 21, said he consumes four cups of rice per meal or seven cups per day and would usually eat at home.


“Nakasanayan din. Sa bahay ako madami kumain ng kanin [I’m used to it. I eat a lot of rice at home],” he said.


Blue-collar workers such as delivery men, security guards and drivers are also patrons of restaurants that offer unlimited rice.


Manuel, a 31-year-old delivery man, still consumes three cups of rice per meal or as much as eight cups of rice per day. Alvin, a 30-year old security guard, eats as much as four cups per meal or eight cups of rice per day.


Drop by those small, makeshift carinderias that usually sprout on the edges of major construction projects around the country. On any given day, one invariably sees construction workers buying two to three plastic packs of rice and just one tiny plastic bag of viand. Understandable because the rice can go from just P5 to P8 a pack in such sites, while one order of viand averages between P25 and P40.


Guesstimates


THE exact rice consumption of Filipinos is difficult to predict and depends on demographics as well as other socioeconomic factors. Nonetheless, it is still important for the government to be able to provide an estimate.


These estimates are crucial given the fact that the country is a net food importer.


In previous years, the Philippines was even considered the world’s largest rice consumer. This puts a spotlight on the accuracy of rice estimates.


National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Assistant Secretary Mercedita A. Sombilla admitted to the BusinessMirror there are discrepancies when it comes to the use of the SUA and the FCS. Sombilla said policymakers have known such discrepancies for years.


She added that harmonizing the data is close to, if not totally, impossible. She said that for one, it is only during the lean months when the SUA and FCS data actually match.


Despite these concerns, Sombilla said that as policymakers, the government needs to recommend imports given that the country does not really produce enough rice for Filipinos’ consumption.


She explained this is the reason for the quarterly inventory to go askew.


“We can’t harmonize data,” Sombilla said. “We never did quarterly estimates of supply and demand during those times because they were not accurate.”


Roehlano M. Briones, senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, shared the same concern with the BusinessMirror about erratic rice inventory data.


“[The] common complaint by industry stakeholders is smuggling. That is actually a reality that we do not deny. So that means there [is] more volume coming into your stocks than recorded,” Briones told the BusinessMirror.


“I really cannot say if the rice inventory data [of the PSA] is that reliable. The National Food Authority (NFA) is probably accurate but for commercial stocks and household stocks, it is [difficult] for me to comment because the frameworks for those two surveys are based on an old survey way, way back during the National Statistics Office [the PSA predecessor] days,” he added.


Consumption


THROUGH the survey-based FCS, the government can estimate the country’s per capita rice consumption, while the SUA can estimate the country’s per capita net food disposable (NFD).


According to the PSA, the NFD refers to the amount of food commodity available in its original or unprocessed form for human consumption.


“This is usually equated or made equivalent to the quantity.”


The government uses both per capita rice consumption and per capita NFD to decide on the volume of rice needed to be imported in order to augment the shortfall in local supply, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) explained in its 2012 policy report.


According to PhilRice, the FCS and the SUA framework are both used by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) to estimate per capita rice consumption.


“FCS measures the amount of food actually consumed by sample households. Survey data are more accurate but availability is for selected years only because data gathering is expensive,” PhilRice added.


PhilRice explained that the SUA provides the government with annual estimates of per capita rice consumption, thus, becoming a more convenient input in agricultural policy planning.


Based on the FCS of the PSA, the country’s per capita rice consumption in 2015 to 2016 declined to 109.875 kg from 114.265 kg in 2012.


Prior to those years, the country’s per capita rice consumption grew to an all-time high of 119.08 per kg in 2008 to 2009 from 105.768 kg in 1999 to 2000. This was at 104.273 kg in 1995.


However, during the same reference years, SUA estimates showed otherwise.


In 1995 per capita NFD was pegged at 92.55 kg, while in 1999 it was at 99.68, subsequently breaching the 100-kg level in 2000 as it rose to 103.16 kg.


The SUA estimates showed that per capita NFD in 2012 was at 118.87 kg, 4.605 kg more than its counterpart from the FCS.


For the years 2015 and 2016, the country’s per capita NFD reached 111.62 kg and 107.84 kg respectively, according to PSA’s SUA estimates.


Vital statistics


HOWEVER, in 2012, PhilRice issued a policy report indicating that parameters under the SUA framework are already outdated, if not obsolete.


“The SUA framework was developed by the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] and the estimates for SUA parameters were tailored based on the country’s utilization pattern,” it said in March 2012. “For the Philippines, these estimates were determined by an interagency committee in the 1980s and are still being used up to this date.”


Rolando T. Dy, University of Asia and the Pacific Center for Food and Agri Business executive director, pointed out that having an updated and validated data on the country’s rice supply and demand would help government policy-makers come up with prudent decisions.


“For example, if situations are normal—just like in the past two years—the increase in the prices [of rice] will reflect the gap in the supply and demand,” Dy said.


“And that means we lacked importation to augment our supply because the prices went up. That’s under normal circumstances,” he added.


And one of the most valuable data or measurement needed by the government in monitoring the country’s rice supply and demand is the per capita rice consumption.


The PhilRice explains the importance of per capita rice consumption simply as a critical variable used in estimating the rice requirement of the country.


“Therefore, this has an impact on setting the import requirement of the country,” PhilRice said in a 2012 policy note aimed to improve the government’s decision-making on rice production.


“Increased per capita rice consumption means more imported rice,” PhilRice added.


Briones said the FCS is more reliable than the SUA estimates when it comes to the country’s per capita rice consumption.


Briones said there are a lot of “flaws” in the SUA parameters of the government as well as other statistical frameworks used by the PSA in coming up with data on rice supply and demand.


Missing


FIRST, there is the case of the missing supply.


The government must take into consideration the volume of smuggled rice into the country as part of its total staple supply, Dy said. Industry estimates that there is about 1 million metric tons of rice smuggled to the Philippines annually, he added.


Briones said the framework of the PSA’s production estimates is already outdated as it was last updated in 1990.


“So much over time the sample for the survey becomes irrelevant,” he said. “The farther the current period from the original frame period, the more errors would be computed.”


Citing anecdotes from local government units, Briones said the PSA usually understates its palay production estimates.


“I have not seen a single LGU that said that the estimates of PSA are good,” he added. “The LGUs seem to imply that production [estimates of PSA] are understated. Real production tends to be higher than those reported by PSA, which are based on quarterly palay production surveys.”


Outdated


THE PSA employs various “outdated” parameters with its SUA that could lead to a huge difference in total rice supply and demand of the country, according to Briones.


For one, the SUA sticks with its average milling recovery rate (MRR) of about 65.4 percent, which, Briones said, is crying to be reviewed.


“The milling recovery rate is problematic,” he said. “It has been used for decades now and has not been reviewed. A one percentage point [difference in milling recovery rate] could mean a hundred thousand metric tons.”


Citing the survey conducted by the then Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the PhilRice said the country’s average MRR stood at 62.85 percent in 2008, which is 2.55 percentage points lower than the MRR used in the SUA.


PhilRice also noted that the average seeding rate and postharvest losses used in the current SUA are outdated.


Based on the Palay Production Survey conducted by the BAS, the average seeding rate in 2009 is 76.55 kg/hectare, higher than SUA’s 75 kg/ha, it said.


The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) reports that the current estimate of postharvest losses (drying to storage) for rice is 7.55 percent higher than SUA’s 6.5 percent, the PhilRice added.


Factor out babies, OFWs


THE government should thoroughly consider the estimated population in dividing the total rice demand, according to economists at the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P).


For one, babies should not be counted in the country’s estimated population when getting the per capita consumption as they only consume the staple after about two years, Dy explained.


For another, overseas Filipino workers are not in the Philippines and thus, they must not be included in computing per capita rice consumption, according to Senen U. Reyes, UA&P senior management specialist.


The risk of underestimation or overestimation in the parameters of SUA could translate to higher or lower NFD, according to Briones.


“If there are errors, the residual would just absorb them. If the errors of overstated and understated would cancel each other, that is hard to say,” he said. “That is why I have little confidence in SUA-based estimates. I am more partial to sample surveys.”


The PhilRice said an error on the MRR is a crucial part in estimating the country’s per capita NFD.


“An overestimated [or underestimated] MRR can result in overestimated [or underestimated] rice supply, hence, higher [or lower] per capita NFD,” it said.


PhilRice added in its report the overestimated MRR translated into an additional 4 kg in per capita NFD, while the underestimated wastage equated to about 1.11 kilograms. Furthermore, the underestimated seeding rate meant a reduction of 0.04 kg.


“If the substitution effect, overestimated MRR and underestimated allotments for seeds and rice wastage were adjusted, the NFD would have been 114.42 kg/year in 2009, which is 4.6 percent or 5.5 kg lower than the reported amount of 119.92 kg/year,” it said.


Partnership


DY is urging the government to involve the private sector, particularly those in the rice trade business, in coming up with sound data on the country’s staple requirement.


“Involve people from the private sector such as the grain millers and retailers. Because they are on the ground and they know the trends in buying and consumption of rice,” he said.


“The government could discuss with the private sector at least twice a year to determine what is really the trend of the country’s rice consumption.”


Reyes recommended the government create an interagency committee that would harmonize available datasets.


Through the interagency committee and the private sector, the government could now come up with reliable and updated baselines on the country’s rice consumption, according to Dy.


“That will remove inconsistencies in data and would save the government money [from conducting various surveys],” Reyes told the BusinessMirror.


PhilRice recommended that the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) interagency Committee on Cereals “could set new estimates of SUA parameters, i.e., MRR, seeds, processing, and feeds and waste, to derive a more realistic per capita NFD figure.”


“The new estimates should then be endorsed to the National Statistics Coordination Board [NSCB] for approval and adoption,” it said in 2012.


Briones said in an ideal situation where there is no budgetary restriction, the government should conduct annual FCS. However, if financial resources are limited, a biennial survey would suffice, he added.


“Survey-based estimates are better as they allow people to respond to relative price changes—instead of estimates based on certain figures not driven by economic forces and dictated by political logic rather than economic logic,” Briones explained.


Representations


GRAINS Retailers Confederation of the Philippines (Grecon) President Jaime O. Magbanua said they have been lobbying the government to allow private representation in the National Food Authority Council (NFAC) for so long now.


The NFAC, the highest policy-making body of the NFA, also decides whether or not the government should import rice.


“The representation of the rice industry at the NFAC is only up to the farmers’ level and there is no stakeholder from the traders, millers and retailers,” Magbanua said. “We are arguing that we should be represented at the NFAC as we are the ones who know the actual situation in the field.”


Magbanua believes involving the private sector in the government’s policy-making process would result in more impartial and sound decisions.


“The government should be really able to determine how much volume of rice goes into our trade. We should determine how much imports are coming and needed,” he said. “And that is possible if we have a strong private sector involved in the process because we will be the one giving our inputs so that there is balanced information for the government.”


Futures


AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol is cognizant of the importance of a sound database on the country’s food consumption.


In fact, one of the 10 basic foundations of a sound agriculture and fisheries program under the Duterte administration is having a national food consumption quantification study (FCQS), according to documents from the Department of Agriculture (DA).


“A nationwide survey will be conducted to determine the most consumed and in-demand foodstuff and agricultural commodities for all Filipinos,” the DA said.


“This initiative will also establish the food consumption rate in relation to population growth of the country, allowing the government to think ahead and pursue programs and projects that address food concerns proactively,” it added.


Thus, the DA partnered with the FAO last year to conduct the FCQS.


The FCQS, a $300,000-funded FAO study, would determine the current trends in food consumption by Filipinos.


“We want to get the data accurate,” Piñol told the BusinessMirror. “For example, this is a question for the longest time, what is the total consumption of rice per year by Filipinos? Is it 114 kg per capita or 109 kg? That 5-kg difference is a big difference.”


The agriculture chief said government targets to complete the FCQS before the year ends.


Once completed, Piñol said the FCQS would be presented before an interagency coordinating committee comprising of pertinent government agencies on the country’s food trade.


The FAO failed to reply to BusinessMirror’s request for comments before this story ran.


Confusion


ACCORDING to Piñol, having confusing data sets “affects our strategic planning.”


He explained that having a solid data set on the country’s food consumption would be more critical in a post-QR rice regime as the President would need all pertinent and updated information to exercise his powers under the law.


“Under the [tariffication] law, the President has a huge elbow room when it comes to tariffs. If he thinks the imported volume is already detrimental to the local rice industry then he could increase the tariffs,” he said. “That adjustment would still assure us of sufficient supply but ensure farmers are not hurt.”


In order to address the issues with the SUA and the FCS, Ilarina said the PSA is now in the process of adopting the Food Balance Sheet (FBS) recommended by the FAO by December this year.


According to the FAO, the FBS offers a comprehensive picture of the pattern of a country’s food supply in a particular period. An FBS is created per commodity or food item and details the number of processed commodities that are potentially available for human consumption.


“The total quantity of foodstuffs produced in a country added to the total quantity imported and adjusted to any change in stocks that may have occurred since the beginning of the reference period gives the supply available during that period,” FAO said.


Nutrients


THE FBS, Ilarina said, offers a lot more indicators when it comes to food consumption, such as nutrient content and energy content, which are not available in the SUA and the FCS. The FBS will also help make sense of the data on food sourced from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).


Ilarina said the FNRI data is very detailed but only takes into consideration the nutrient content of the commodity consumed in the household. The methodology for obtaining this data is very tedious and invasive.


In order to obtain the information, the FNRI visits specific households and measures the weight and nutrient content of all food consumed at home. Therein lies one of its limitations—it only accounts for food that is consumed at home.


These limitations make the FBS a more attractive option for the PSA. Ilarina said the PSA already has an interagency committee (IAC) for the Task Force on Food Balance Sheet. When the IAC has approved the indicators for the FBS, this will be presented to the PSA board for approval and then adoption. ###
BEST AGRICULTURE NEWS STORY-REGIONAL
BREWING ENOUGH COFFEE FOR THE FILIPINO CUP
KARLSTON LAPNITEN
BAGUIO CHRONICLE
This article talks about the struggle of Filipino coffee farmers to meet the country’s demands. However, through the efforts of local and national government agencies to change the mindset of the Filipino coffee farmers, implement training programs and intercropping with coconut and pine trees the Philippine coffee industry should again be fully sufficient by 2021.
FULL STORY
Brewing Enough Coffee For The Filipino Cup
BEST AGRICULTURE NEWS STORY-NATIONAL

SNAPSHOT OF RICE-CONSUMPTION DATA REMAINS GRAINY AS PINOYS GRAPPLE WITH SUPPLY, PRICES

JASPER EMMANUEL ARCALAS AND CAI ORDINARIO


Snapshot of rice-consumption data remains grainy as Pinoys grapple with supply, prices


AS Filipinos’ appetite for rice becomes as big as its political-economic implication, a snapshot of data on its consumption remains grainy.


This is so because the government uses two data sets to estimate the amount of rice consumed by every Filipino. Having two data sets to compute for a single amount can result in data discrepancies that make rice demand and supply difficult to evaluate.


The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) releases the Supply Utilization Accounts (SUA) of selected agricultural commodities and the results of the Food Consumption Survey (FCS).


According to PSA Assistant National Statistician Vivian R. Ilarina, the SUA is based on production while the FCS is based on a survey that doesn’t separate the consumption of rice from other “cereals.”


The SUA treats rice consumption as merely residual after computing rice stocks and removing exports and waste, among others.


“You estimate first the stocks plus the stocks available at the beginning of the year plus the local production plus imports—some of that—less use and disposition like exports, waste, processing, feeds, seeds—everything—then you have the closing stock, which [also comes] from the survey of the PSA,” Ilarina said.


“When you compare the left side equation to the right side, there is a residual. And this represents now the total consumption, which is available for food. This is not yet considered actual food consumption. In the survey of food demand, that is actual consumption,” she added.


Evaluating actual consumption is important as some sectors are pushing for unbridled entry of rice into the system while its price is being marked by runaway increases and a possible phantom shortage.


Ingrained


RICH and poor households always have rice included in their budgets. It is the cheapest source of carbohydrates and is most compatible with Filipino dishes.


Based on interviews conducted by the BusinessMirror, a low-income family consumes three to four kilos of rice per week—around 12 kilos to 16 kilos per month—relative to the number of members and their appetite.


Due to the recent increase in rice prices, households shell out more pesos to pay for goods. This is especially true for lower-income households, especially those at the bottom of the pyramid.


University of the Philippines School of Statistics Dean Dennis S. Mapa said food items, including rice, account for 70 percent of the household budget of Filipinos earning less than average. About 39 percent of an average Filipino household’s budget is for food items.


This makes the poor even more sensitive to increases in food prices, including rice, Mapa explained.


Of course, we are affected by high rice prices, Reynaldo Teñuso, a resident of Malolos, Bulacan, told the BusinessMirror. Teñuso added this becomes even more felt when the price of a kilo of rice increases P1 or P2 more.


To save on costs associated with cooking at home, some households resort to buying cooked rice, usually at P10 per cup, from a store.


For three meals a day, this means P30 ($0.56) per day and about P210 or nearly $4 per week.


A more affluent household with five members can buy 25 kilos to 100 kilos a month. An affluent family of eight could buy 50 kilos of rice a month.


This, even if richer families have more financial means to buy other sources of carbohydrates.


Dagupan City resident Almira Chu, whose family owns a local hotel, said rice remains as their best daily source of carbohydrates.


Apart from rice, the meals in more affluent households include vegetables and meat. This could be one key difference between rich and poor households—the ability to buy other commodities to accompany their meals.


Unlike poor Filipinos who adjust their consumption just to make ends meet, rich families will continue to buy their set monthly consumption—no matter the price.


“Even if the price of rice is increased, our consumption remains the same since rice is the most important for a Filipino family,” Josefina V. Castañeda, municipal mayor of Lingayen, Pangasinan, said.


All rice


RICE consumption levels also differ according to age and occupation.


While older Filipinos would be content with half a cup or just a cup of rice per meal, students or those in their teens and 20s would consume more than double this amount.


Some young Filipinos would consume two cups to as much as four to five cups of rice every meal. This has made many of them regular patrons of restaurants that offer unlimited rice. They also rely on the seemingly “unlimited” nature of rice supply at home.


Jade, 19, said she usually consumes two cups per meal or six cups a day to as many as nine cups a day, thanks to “unlimited rice” offers by restaurants. Carlos, 21, said he consumes four cups of rice per meal or seven cups per day and would usually eat at home.


“Nakasanayan din. Sa bahay ako madami kumain ng kanin [I’m used to it. I eat a lot of rice at home],” he said.


Blue-collar workers such as delivery men, security guards and drivers are also patrons of restaurants that offer unlimited rice.


Manuel, a 31-year-old delivery man, still consumes three cups of rice per meal or as much as eight cups of rice per day. Alvin, a 30-year old security guard, eats as much as four cups per meal or eight cups of rice per day.


Drop by those small, makeshift carinderias that usually sprout on the edges of major construction projects around the country. On any given day, one invariably sees construction workers buying two to three plastic packs of rice and just one tiny plastic bag of viand. Understandable because the rice can go from just P5 to P8 a pack in such sites, while one order of viand averages between P25 and P40.


Guesstimates


THE exact rice consumption of Filipinos is difficult to predict and depends on demographics as well as other socioeconomic factors. Nonetheless, it is still important for the government to be able to provide an estimate.


These estimates are crucial given the fact that the country is a net food importer.


In previous years, the Philippines was even considered the world’s largest rice consumer. This puts a spotlight on the accuracy of rice estimates.


National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Assistant Secretary Mercedita A. Sombilla admitted to the BusinessMirror there are discrepancies when it comes to the use of the SUA and the FCS. Sombilla said policymakers have known such discrepancies for years.


She added that harmonizing the data is close to, if not totally, impossible. She said that for one, it is only during the lean months when the SUA and FCS data actually match.


Despite these concerns, Sombilla said that as policymakers, the government needs to recommend imports given that the country does not really produce enough rice for Filipinos’ consumption.


She explained this is the reason for the quarterly inventory to go askew.


“We can’t harmonize data,” Sombilla said. “We never did quarterly estimates of supply and demand during those times because they were not accurate.”


Roehlano M. Briones, senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, shared the same concern with the BusinessMirror about erratic rice inventory data.


“[The] common complaint by industry stakeholders is smuggling. That is actually a reality that we do not deny. So that means there [is] more volume coming into your stocks than recorded,” Briones told the BusinessMirror.


“I really cannot say if the rice inventory data [of the PSA] is that reliable. The National Food Authority (NFA) is probably accurate but for commercial stocks and household stocks, it is [difficult] for me to comment because the frameworks for those two surveys are based on an old survey way, way back during the National Statistics Office [the PSA predecessor] days,” he added.


Consumption


THROUGH the survey-based FCS, the government can estimate the country’s per capita rice consumption, while the SUA can estimate the country’s per capita net food disposable (NFD).


According to the PSA, the NFD refers to the amount of food commodity available in its original or unprocessed form for human consumption.


“This is usually equated or made equivalent to the quantity.”


The government uses both per capita rice consumption and per capita NFD to decide on the volume of rice needed to be imported in order to augment the shortfall in local supply, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) explained in its 2012 policy report.


According to PhilRice, the FCS and the SUA framework are both used by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) to estimate per capita rice consumption.


“FCS measures the amount of food actually consumed by sample households. Survey data are more accurate but availability is for selected years only because data gathering is expensive,” PhilRice added.


PhilRice explained that the SUA provides the government with annual estimates of per capita rice consumption, thus, becoming a more convenient input in agricultural policy planning.


Based on the FCS of the PSA, the country’s per capita rice consumption in 2015 to 2016 declined to 109.875 kg from 114.265 kg in 2012.


Prior to those years, the country’s per capita rice consumption grew to an all-time high of 119.08 per kg in 2008 to 2009 from 105.768 kg in 1999 to 2000. This was at 104.273 kg in 1995.


However, during the same reference years, SUA estimates showed otherwise.


In 1995 per capita NFD was pegged at 92.55 kg, while in 1999 it was at 99.68, subsequently breaching the 100-kg level in 2000 as it rose to 103.16 kg.


The SUA estimates showed that per capita NFD in 2012 was at 118.87 kg, 4.605 kg more than its counterpart from the FCS.


For the years 2015 and 2016, the country’s per capita NFD reached 111.62 kg and 107.84 kg respectively, according to PSA’s SUA estimates.


Vital statistics


HOWEVER, in 2012, PhilRice issued a policy report indicating that parameters under the SUA framework are already outdated, if not obsolete.


“The SUA framework was developed by the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] and the estimates for SUA parameters were tailored based on the country’s utilization pattern,” it said in March 2012. “For the Philippines, these estimates were determined by an interagency committee in the 1980s and are still being used up to this date.”


Rolando T. Dy, University of Asia and the Pacific Center for Food and Agri Business executive director, pointed out that having an updated and validated data on the country’s rice supply and demand would help government policy-makers come up with prudent decisions.


“For example, if situations are normal—just like in the past two years—the increase in the prices [of rice] will reflect the gap in the supply and demand,” Dy said.


“And that means we lacked importation to augment our supply because the prices went up. That’s under normal circumstances,” he added.


And one of the most valuable data or measurement needed by the government in monitoring the country’s rice supply and demand is the per capita rice consumption.


The PhilRice explains the importance of per capita rice consumption simply as a critical variable used in estimating the rice requirement of the country.


“Therefore, this has an impact on setting the import requirement of the country,” PhilRice said in a 2012 policy note aimed to improve the government’s decision-making on rice production.


“Increased per capita rice consumption means more imported rice,” PhilRice added.


Briones said the FCS is more reliable than the SUA estimates when it comes to the country’s per capita rice consumption.


Briones said there are a lot of “flaws” in the SUA parameters of the government as well as other statistical frameworks used by the PSA in coming up with data on rice supply and demand.


Missing


FIRST, there is the case of the missing supply.


The government must take into consideration the volume of smuggled rice into the country as part of its total staple supply, Dy said. Industry estimates that there is about 1 million metric tons of rice smuggled to the Philippines annually, he added.


Briones said the framework of the PSA’s production estimates is already outdated as it was last updated in 1990.


“So much over time the sample for the survey becomes irrelevant,” he said. “The farther the current period from the original frame period, the more errors would be computed.”


Citing anecdotes from local government units, Briones said the PSA usually understates its palay production estimates.


“I have not seen a single LGU that said that the estimates of PSA are good,” he added. “The LGUs seem to imply that production [estimates of PSA] are understated. Real production tends to be higher than those reported by PSA, which are based on quarterly palay production surveys.”


Outdated


THE PSA employs various “outdated” parameters with its SUA that could lead to a huge difference in total rice supply and demand of the country, according to Briones.


For one, the SUA sticks with its average milling recovery rate (MRR) of about 65.4 percent, which, Briones said, is crying to be reviewed.


“The milling recovery rate is problematic,” he said. “It has been used for decades now and has not been reviewed. A one percentage point [difference in milling recovery rate] could mean a hundred thousand metric tons.”


Citing the survey conducted by the then Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the PhilRice said the country’s average MRR stood at 62.85 percent in 2008, which is 2.55 percentage points lower than the MRR used in the SUA.


PhilRice also noted that the average seeding rate and postharvest losses used in the current SUA are outdated.


Based on the Palay Production Survey conducted by the BAS, the average seeding rate in 2009 is 76.55 kg/hectare, higher than SUA’s 75 kg/ha, it said.


The Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) reports that the current estimate of postharvest losses (drying to storage) for rice is 7.55 percent higher than SUA’s 6.5 percent, the PhilRice added.


Factor out babies, OFWs


THE government should thoroughly consider the estimated population in dividing the total rice demand, according to economists at the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P).


For one, babies should not be counted in the country’s estimated population when getting the per capita consumption as they only consume the staple after about two years, Dy explained.


For another, overseas Filipino workers are not in the Philippines and thus, they must not be included in computing per capita rice consumption, according to Senen U. Reyes, UA&P senior management specialist.


The risk of underestimation or overestimation in the parameters of SUA could translate to higher or lower NFD, according to Briones.


“If there are errors, the residual would just absorb them. If the errors of overstated and understated would cancel each other, that is hard to say,” he said. “That is why I have little confidence in SUA-based estimates. I am more partial to sample surveys.”


The PhilRice said an error on the MRR is a crucial part in estimating the country’s per capita NFD.


“An overestimated [or underestimated] MRR can result in overestimated [or underestimated] rice supply, hence, higher [or lower] per capita NFD,” it said.


PhilRice added in its report the overestimated MRR translated into an additional 4 kg in per capita NFD, while the underestimated wastage equated to about 1.11 kilograms. Furthermore, the underestimated seeding rate meant a reduction of 0.04 kg.


“If the substitution effect, overestimated MRR and underestimated allotments for seeds and rice wastage were adjusted, the NFD would have been 114.42 kg/year in 2009, which is 4.6 percent or 5.5 kg lower than the reported amount of 119.92 kg/year,” it said.


Partnership


DY is urging the government to involve the private sector, particularly those in the rice trade business, in coming up with sound data on the country’s staple requirement.


“Involve people from the private sector such as the grain millers and retailers. Because they are on the ground and they know the trends in buying and consumption of rice,” he said.


“The government could discuss with the private sector at least twice a year to determine what is really the trend of the country’s rice consumption.”


Reyes recommended the government create an interagency committee that would harmonize available datasets.


Through the interagency committee and the private sector, the government could now come up with reliable and updated baselines on the country’s rice consumption, according to Dy.


“That will remove inconsistencies in data and would save the government money [from conducting various surveys],” Reyes told the BusinessMirror.


PhilRice recommended that the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) interagency Committee on Cereals “could set new estimates of SUA parameters, i.e., MRR, seeds, processing, and feeds and waste, to derive a more realistic per capita NFD figure.”


“The new estimates should then be endorsed to the National Statistics Coordination Board [NSCB] for approval and adoption,” it said in 2012.


Briones said in an ideal situation where there is no budgetary restriction, the government should conduct annual FCS. However, if financial resources are limited, a biennial survey would suffice, he added.


“Survey-based estimates are better as they allow people to respond to relative price changes—instead of estimates based on certain figures not driven by economic forces and dictated by political logic rather than economic logic,” Briones explained.


Representations


GRAINS Retailers Confederation of the Philippines (Grecon) President Jaime O. Magbanua said they have been lobbying the government to allow private representation in the National Food Authority Council (NFAC) for so long now.


The NFAC, the highest policy-making body of the NFA, also decides whether or not the government should import rice.


“The representation of the rice industry at the NFAC is only up to the farmers’ level and there is no stakeholder from the traders, millers and retailers,” Magbanua said. “We are arguing that we should be represented at the NFAC as we are the ones who know the actual situation in the field.”


Magbanua believes involving the private sector in the government’s policy-making process would result in more impartial and sound decisions.


“The government should be really able to determine how much volume of rice goes into our trade. We should determine how much imports are coming and needed,” he said. “And that is possible if we have a strong private sector involved in the process because we will be the one giving our inputs so that there is balanced information for the government.”


Futures


AGRICULTURE Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol is cognizant of the importance of a sound database on the country’s food consumption.


In fact, one of the 10 basic foundations of a sound agriculture and fisheries program under the Duterte administration is having a national food consumption quantification study (FCQS), according to documents from the Department of Agriculture (DA).


“A nationwide survey will be conducted to determine the most consumed and in-demand foodstuff and agricultural commodities for all Filipinos,” the DA said.


“This initiative will also establish the food consumption rate in relation to population growth of the country, allowing the government to think ahead and pursue programs and projects that address food concerns proactively,” it added.


Thus, the DA partnered with the FAO last year to conduct the FCQS.


The FCQS, a $300,000-funded FAO study, would determine the current trends in food consumption by Filipinos.


“We want to get the data accurate,” Piñol told the BusinessMirror. “For example, this is a question for the longest time, what is the total consumption of rice per year by Filipinos? Is it 114 kg per capita or 109 kg? That 5-kg difference is a big difference.”


The agriculture chief said government targets to complete the FCQS before the year ends.


Once completed, Piñol said the FCQS would be presented before an interagency coordinating committee comprising of pertinent government agencies on the country’s food trade.


The FAO failed to reply to BusinessMirror’s request for comments before this story ran.


Confusion


ACCORDING to Piñol, having confusing data sets “affects our strategic planning.”


He explained that having a solid data set on the country’s food consumption would be more critical in a post-QR rice regime as the President would need all pertinent and updated information to exercise his powers under the law.


“Under the [tariffication] law, the President has a huge elbow room when it comes to tariffs. If he thinks the imported volume is already detrimental to the local rice industry then he could increase the tariffs,” he said. “That adjustment would still assure us of sufficient supply but ensure farmers are not hurt.”


In order to address the issues with the SUA and the FCS, Ilarina said the PSA is now in the process of adopting the Food Balance Sheet (FBS) recommended by the FAO by December this year.


According to the FAO, the FBS offers a comprehensive picture of the pattern of a country’s food supply in a particular period. An FBS is created per commodity or food item and details the number of processed commodities that are potentially available for human consumption.


“The total quantity of foodstuffs produced in a country added to the total quantity imported and adjusted to any change in stocks that may have occurred since the beginning of the reference period gives the supply available during that period,” FAO said.


Nutrients


THE FBS, Ilarina said, offers a lot more indicators when it comes to food consumption, such as nutrient content and energy content, which are not available in the SUA and the FCS. The FBS will also help make sense of the data on food sourced from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).


Ilarina said the FNRI data is very detailed but only takes into consideration the nutrient content of the commodity consumed in the household. The methodology for obtaining this data is very tedious and invasive.


In order to obtain the information, the FNRI visits specific households and measures the weight and nutrient content of all food consumed at home. Therein lies one of its limitations—it only accounts for food that is consumed at home.


These limitations make the FBS a more attractive option for the PSA. Ilarina said the PSA already has an interagency committee (IAC) for the Task Force on Food Balance Sheet. When the IAC has approved the indicators for the FBS, this will be presented to the PSA board for approval and then adoption. ###
BEST AGRICULTURE FEATURE STORY-NATIONAL
FOWL FARMERS' FEARS PERSIST 1 YEAR AFTER BIRD FLU FLARE-UP: PHL POULTRY RAISERS ON GROUND ZERO STILL COPING
JASPER EMMANUEL ARCALAS
BUSINESS MIRROR
This is the story of the Bird Flu outbreak in San Carlos, San Luis, Pampanga and how it continues to affect lives of poultry farmers a year later. It also talks aboout how the government handled the crisis and the changes they have made to policies and procedures for future outbreak.
FULL STORY
Fowl Farmers’ Fears Persist 1 Year After Bird Flu Flare-Up: PHL Poultry Raisers On Ground Zero Still Coping
BEST AGRICULTURE FEATURE STORY-NATIONAL

FOWL FARMERS' FEARS PERSIST 1 YEAR AFTER BIRD FLU FLARE-UP: PHL POULTRY RAISERS ON GROUND ZERO STILL COPING

JASPER EMMANUEL ARCALAS, BUSINESS MIRROR



FIFTY-five weeks ago, poultry farm owner Librada Sese celebrated life; today she can only recall death as thousands of chickens, some she raised, were killed on orders of government.


She had a premonition on July 24, 2017, but a friend’s birthday peck on her cheeks brought her back to the bustle of activity inside her one-story house in San Carlos, San Luis, Pampanga. The distant cackles and cock-a-doodle-do’s from layers inside buildings adjacent to her house were brushed aside by laughter and chatter of guests.


It was festive as Sese, “Nanay Librada” to many, was celebrating 78 years of her life on this planet. Another reason to be happy that day: 2017 was turning out to be a good year for her layer farm.


For the first two quarters, demand for table eggs was growing, which pushed farm-gate prices to rise to unprecedented level.


It was a year Sese, a layer raiser for more than four decades, envisioned to be “the year.”


“I was going to pay my debts and save more money for myself,” she told the BusinessMirror.


The good fortune brought to Sese’s life by the first six months of 2017 allowed her to go with her usual birthday routine: set a feast and invite all the people from the barrio.


Gifts arrived. Greetings were received. But an unusual visitor also reached her: rumors of a plague creeping into their small town, about 60 kilometers from the nation’s capital.


“Some of my visitors told me [that day that] the flocks of our neighbors have died,” she recalled. She was speechless.


Year of the Rooster


SESE steeled herself as her farmhand brought her the news she dreaded to hear.


She was roused from sleep near dawn the day after turning 78 when her caretaker told her, “Ima, may namatay na po roon sa Building 1,” Sese, who has a dozen poultry houses, said. “200 na po.” [Mother, about 200 birds have died in Building 1.]


She ordered the farm worker to give medicines to her layers, hoping it was just a normal illness that’s affected the farm.


By noon the same day, another 500 birds were dead.


When she asked how many chickens could die, her farm worker became silent. She got an answer 17 days after she turned 78.


Sese’s poultry farm of 60,000 head of layers was declared on August 11, 2017, as the ground zero of the country’s first confirmed avian influenza (AI) case.


The year that Nanay Librada thought would be one of the best years of her business turned out to be the worst.


She lost more than P30 million with the eradication of her flock, with majority being culled by government officials to contain the virus.


Coincidentally, 2017 was the Year of the Fire Rooster—the same year that bird flu hit Central Luzon.


Harbinger of death


THE ringing of a phone jolted the attention of Roy M. Abaya from the Excel file he had been tweaking since arriving at his office at 8 a.m. of August 10, 2017.


Abaya, Regional Field Office 3 chief for the Department of Agriculture (DA), was in his office in San Fernando, Pampanga, preparing his region’s budget for 2018 when he received an unusual call. It was from his boss.


“The Secretary told me that we have to announce this and then prepare immediately,” Abaya, who was four months into his work as regional director, told the BusinessMirror.


About 68 kilometers away, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol replaced the receiver on his phone at his office in Quezon City after talking to Abaya.


“Fear was overwhelming,” he told the BusinessMirror of his experience during the bird-flu outbreak last year.


“It was just an overstated poultry disease,” the DA chief pointed out. “Admittedly, it actually caused deaths in other countries but the feared fatal effect of the disease was not present in the Philippine experience.”


Piñol did doubt it at first, as what was expected from a former journalist. But when the laboratory results came out, Piñol knew it was a monster that the government must take down.


“I was shocked,” he said. “The first thing I did was to think like a farmer. I knew right there and then we have to cull the birds so as to contain the virus.”


Premonition, omen


A WEEK prior to Piñol’s call, Abaya already knew that some poultry farms in Barangay San Carlos have already tested positive from AI.


“It was hard for me to believe it because we have been bird flu-free for so long. There have been false alarms before, yes,” Abaya told the BusinessMirror.


“But when we sent the samples to the BAI [Bureau of Animal Industry] laboratory and [they] confirmed it was AI—I was shocked. It was the most valuable thing we have been holding on for so long for our poultry products: that we are bird flu-free,” he added.


Two things immediately crossed Abaya’s mind that time: “What would be the effect of this on our poultry supply and how are we going to contain this?”


“We really did not know what to do at first. Even me; I had to study the [Avian Influenza Protection Program] AIPP,” he said.


“So the fear over how to respond immediately is really there. And it was aggravated [by the fact] that a lot of our stakeholders are already complaining,” added Abaya, who has been in the DA for more than three decades.


Grim reaper


SINCE assuming the helm as DA regional director for Central Luzon in March, Abaya said he never received any reports of unusual mortality among poultry flocks—not until end-July of 2017.


“The poultry owners had the initiative to treat their problem. They did not want to expose [to outsiders] that their flock have health problems because they wanted to protect their businesses,” Abaya told the BusinessMirror. “But when they [were unable] to handle the deaths and they were already alarmed about the matter, that was the [only] time they informed government officials.”


An engineer by profession, Abaya admitted that time he also didn’t know the possible extent of damage a bird-flu virus could bring.


“When our veterinarians told me that within a day it can kill thousands of birds, then I was really afraid,” he said. “And when we saw on the ground what’s happening it was really extreme. They [would] report to us today, and then tomorrow all their flocks would be wiped out.”


Fowl play


Even after the DA declared Barangay San Carlos ground zero for bird flu, poultry raisers hesitated to cooperate with the government. They also had difficulty accepting the fact their flock would be culled no matter what.


“They only opened up when the Secretary announced there will be compensation for the chickens culled,” Abaya said. “When the Secretary also announced that there will be no movement of products within the 7-kilometer radius, then the poultry raisers reached out to us to cull their flock to not incur more losses.”


In its official report to the Office International des Epizooties (OIE or World Organization for Animal Health), the DA culled a total of 208,471 birds in the San Luis outbreak. However, DA-RFO 3 estimates show that total birds culled in the area reached 500,000 head, including those surrendered outside the 1-kilometer quarantine area.


Official tally submitted by the DA to the OIE showed that it culled nearly 200,000 birds in the Nueva Ecija AI-affected poultry farms. DA-RFO 3 estimates that total birds reached about 400,000 head, bringing the total number of poultry animals culled in the country to 900,000 head at least.


During the DA’s budget hearing in Congress, Piñol disclosed that they gave more than P60 million worth of indemnification to poultry farmers affected by AI in Central Luzon.


Art of culling


THE DA faced a lot of challenges given that this was the first confirmed bird-flu outbreak of the country. One major challenge was choosing the most efficient procedure of culling.


“We were not accustomed [to] using personal protective equipment; it was very huge and very hot inside. We thought that it was a piece of cake,” Abaya said. “But just two hours into the gear you are already exhausted.”


At first, the culling teams of the government were manually dislocating the spinal cord of the birds. However, this was tedious and exhaustive.


The teams shifted to carbon dioxide suffocation to fast-track the culling procedures. The animals were placed in carbon dioxide-filled black bags to ensure loss of consciousness.


Abaya said they imposed two shifts for the culling of birds: 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. This meant it took four hours a day to kill the birds.


“Work got easier when the military helped us and when poultry raisers were already volunteering for the culling of their flock in exchange of the indemnification,” he said.


Another problem faced by the government’s veterinarian was basic: where to bury the culled chickens.


“It was rainy season that time. The water table was so low. When you bury the culled chickens, their corpses would float a few seconds after,” Abaya explained.


“And that is a not allowed under our manual because water contamination could be a channel to spread the virus further.”


Due to these above-mentioned challenges, it took the DA-BAI two weeks to totally depopulate the San Luis farms.


Poultry solution


THE National Research Council of the Philippines (NRCP) accused the DA of lacking an effective communication plan and risk communication specialists, resulting in miscommunication of message during the bird-flu outbreak.


In its draft policy brief, the NRCP recommended the DA should communicate better during times of disaster or disease outbreaks.


The NRCP is an attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) mandated by law “to provide advice on problems and issues of national interest.”


The NRCP proposed that the DA should create an “effective communication plan specific for outbreak communications” to be able to send its message clearly to the public.


“Include in the communication plan the capacity building and training of focal persons in the [local government units] to properly communicate the risks at the local level to address the problem of non- and under-reporting of AI incidences,” the NRCP said in the draft policy brief, a copy of which was obtained by the BusinessMirror.


The NRCP also recommended that the DA should “have a pool of risk communication specialists who shall be responsible for disseminating information on outbreaks for public consumption to minimize mishandling of information and media sensationalism.”


The NRCP also recommended that the DA-BAI should include “traded game cocks and smuggled chicken from other countries” in its surveillance coverage.


Nuggets of knowledge


FOR Elias Jose Inciong, president of United Broiler Raisers Association (Ubra), the “low-keyness” of the government during the disease outbreak speaks louder than verbal pronouncements.


For him, the government should just treat bird flu as a normal avian disease and eradicate it at the soonest possible time with the least public noise.


“For more effective handling of the situation, we recommend that the government keep it quiet unless there is really a necessity to announce it such as that it could harm human beings. Right now, based on our experience, the best thing to do is to keep it low,” Inciong told the BusinessMirror.


“In effect you still have a way to announce it through the OIE. But it doesn’t have to be a major production. There’s no need for press conferences or press releases,” Inciong added.


Piñol acknowledged the agency was beset with communication problems last year, which resulted in the unintended detrimental impact on broiler raisers.


To address this, Piñol said he would be the sole authority allowed to speak in behalf of the government on bird flu-related matters.


“There will be no more announcements to be made on issues involving animal health problems [from other officials] except the Secretary,” he said.


“We have learned our lesson in the last bird-flu outbreak wherein everybody talked about it—the mayors, the health department, other government officials, which scared people and affected the market,” he added.


Novel strain


THE highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) subtype H5N6 discovered in San Carlos is a lethal one, according to the OIE.


In fact, it is described as a novel strain as it could wipe out poultry flocks in a blink of an eye.


Worse, it has the tendency to be transmitted to human beings, such as the strain that affected 19 people in the People’s Republic of China.


OIE Deputy Director General Matthew Stone told the BusinessMirror it is “crucial” for countries to have effective biosecurity measures to ensure that AI will not be reactivated.


Biosecurity measures, according to Stone, do not only cover the poultry-producing farms, but the whole value chain, including the way poultry products reach the market.


“For example, the entry and exit procedures for trucks and farm workers in poultry farms are vital to ensure no avian disease virus is brought inside and outside the premises.”


Furthermore, Stone noted that the population of poultry houses is an important aspect of biosecurity as overpopulation could lead to faster contamination.


“All these aspects are very, very, important for the poultry industry to think about,” Stone said in a phone interview from Paris.


All at risk


UNLIKE commercial-scale farms, small-scale farms are at risk from avian diseases due to lack of capital to invest in biosecurity measures according to Stone.


“That’s a big challenge for countries with diversified farming types in poultry. You have large multinational companies to small family-owned farms,” he said.


“And more often, these small ones have limited means and costs which makes it a bit challenging for them to have a strong level of biosecurity,” he added. “As a result, often, they are exposed to ongoing circulation of AI; therefore, zoonotic threats could occur.”


Stone pointed out that a strong cooperation between the government and the poultry industry is a must to ensure prevention of avian diseases, including AI.


“The idea of public-private partnership is extremely important,” he said. “The government needs an effective partner in the industry. It is also very important that authorities have a very good relationship with the industry.”


Stone said no country is immune to the risk of AI and that all countries must put in place a “good” level of biosecurity measures.


A key biosecurity measure, according to Stone, is an early warning system that immediately detects a possible threat of avian disease in a specific area.


Such system would allow government to impose additional biosecurity measures particularly during high-risk periods, according to him.


“For example, in many European countries right now, they direct that all poultry must be held indoors during high-risk period of AI,” he said. “It is quite a challenging measure for industries to adopt. But it is an effective one.”


Probable cause


THE Philippine government has yet to announce the probable cause of the bird-flu outbreak in San Carlos.


The DA has tapped the expertise of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to trace back the bird-flu outbreak.


The BusinessMirror sought FAO Philippines’s comments but these had not been received as of the deadline for the story.


Nevertheless, officials have easily blamed migratory birds as the possible culprit for the entry of AI in the country. Various veterinarians and industry stakeholders oppose such argument. They said migratory birds have been in the country for decades now, but this is the first time there was a confirmed case of AI.


Officials also considered the possibility the AI virus entered the country through smuggled Peking ducks.


Chump change


MOVING forward, Piñol disclosed to BusinessMirror more of the changes that will be undertaken in the government’s bible on AI: the AIPP Manual of Procedures.


First, the DA-BAI will now abolish the 1-kilometer quarantine area and 7-kilometer control area.


The stamping out or depopulation of flocks would now be farm-specific to avoid losses for unaffected poultry farms. At the same time, the government will intensify its surveillance for possible spread of the virus to nearby farms or areas.


The government will not hamper the movement of poultry and poultry products outside the AI-affected farms, according to Piñol.


He said the DA will also divide the country into three quarantine regions: Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao. This is unlike the 25 National Avian Influenza-Free poultry production zones indicated under the 2016 AIPP.


“With this, the OIE will not red-flag the whole country as affected by bird flu but only a certain region, for example, Luzon,” Piñol told the BusinessMirror. “It will not unduly affect other stakeholders located in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.”


Going app


AS for the issue of nonreporting by raisers of unusual mortality among flocks, Piñol said he hopes the DA’s new mobile phone application called “Farmhelp” would encourage them to do so.


One way of reporting on their problems, according to Piñol, is by sending photos of their flocks through Farmhelp.


The app was acquired by DA at a bid price of “a little less than P30 million,” the DA chief said. The DA will commence a nationwide information campaign on Farmhelp as well as distribution of “low-cost” smart phones starting September.


“Now it is up to them if they will report or not, given the available options. And if they still do not report unusual mortality, then it may cost them more,” Piñol said. “Despite our farm-specific protocol, the virus could still affect their neighbors which would put at risk their area’s livelihood anew.”


Augusto S. Baluyut Jr., Pampanga Provincial Veterinarian, said the government is also considering adopting defoaming as a procedure to cull chickens.


Defoaming, a practice by the United States in culling birds, uses fire-extinguisher-like sprayers containing foam agents that would suffocate the flock.


Kits cut


EDUARDO L. Lapuz Jr. told the BusinessMirror the DA-RFO 3 has spent P2 million this year to buy sufficient laboratory test kits.


“We bought a lot of test kits so that we will have readily available materials. We can avoid the depletion of stocks like what happened during the outbreak last year,” added Lapuz, DA-RFO 3 Regulatory Division Chief.


Furthermore, Abaya said the DA-RFO 3 has purchased two trucks mounted with power sprayers to disinfect poultry farms. The regional office has already awarded contracts for the power sprayers and delivery is expected within the month, he added.


Lapuz said they allocated a budget of P3 million per unit but were able to purchase the two trucks at a “lower” price. He did not disclose how much was the bid price.


Furthermore, Abaya said they are planning to purchase two wall-mounted disinfectants to be put at entry points of San Luis’s poultry farms this year.


“So when trucks pass by the area they will be disinfected,” he said. “It will be put in entry points of San Luis.”


Spray corps


LAPUZ said the savings of the DA-RFO 3 from the procurement of the test kits and power sprayers will be used to purchase the wall-mounted disinfectants.


“We already found a supplier, which proposed a cost of P1.5 million per unit,” he said. “We are eyeing to buy four units, if not five, based on our savings.”


Lapuz added the DA-RFO 3 has also a budgetary allocation for laboratory supplies next year of about P2 million, which is way higher compared to the measly funding they received prior to the bird-flu outbreak.


Piñol said they will procure more power sprayers if the equipment is proven effective.


Furthermore, the DA will establish AI focal groups nationwide to not only monitor poultry farms but assist farmers in disinfecting their respective areas.


“After harvesting their flocks, the farmers could request the DA to disinfect their farms. At the same time it would allow our veterinarians to monitor the areas for possible virus,” he said.


“This would also allow us to inspect if the farms are conforming to biosecurity measures. The disinfection service of the government would be free for all poultry raisers,” he added.


Fear factor


FIVE words by Abaya will continue to haunt Sese and poultry raisers: “It will always be there.”


“It is just a matter [of time when] the virus will be reactivated or not,” he told the BusinessMirror. “We just really have to intensify our prevention measures particularly in terms of biosecurity.”


This is a sentiment that Piñol shares.


“The risk will always be there. The danger of the disease of coming back will always be there.”


The Agriculture Chief, nonetheless, is confident the government is ready if a bird-flu outbreak returns.


“We have seen the monster face to face. And we did not blink,” he said. “If it comes back, we will be ready. We would no longer be scared as before.”


These words, however, may have yet to soothe Sese’s nerves.


Thirty-two weeks ago, Sese secured a government clearance to restock. She hesitated.


“The fear is always there,” she said.


“We wanted to start again. But the question was, how? And where am I going to get my capital?”


Sese used the P2 million she received from the government indemnification program to purchase 6,000 day-old-chicks (DOCs) in January.


“Hindi ko naisip [na umalis sa poultry business] dahil wala akong ibang tatakbuhan,” Sese said. “May edad na ako at ayaw ko nang mag-isip ng iba pa [I never considered opting out of the poultry business because where will I go? I am already old and I do not want to think about of a lot of other things].”


Sese just stocked 12,000 DOCs in her poultry farm, which are expected to lay eggs by year-end.


She will settle at 18,000 head if the government will not provide any more support to them. In an interview with the BusinessMirror on August 10, Sese said she will not stop hoping for “the year” that mimicked the first half of 2017, before the tragedy began.


“Iniisip ko na lang na darating ’yung panahon na gaganda ulit ’yung kita,” she said under an indigo sky. “Sa una talaga mahirap, at sana mag-pick up sa mga susunod na buwan o taon [I always imagine that time will come when income would be better. I know it’s always difficult at first but surely sales will pick up in the coming months].”


Surely, it’s a hope she cannot be begrudged for holding on to. ###
BEST AGRICULTURE FEATURE STORY-REGIONAL
MAKING AGRICULTURE VIABLE FOR MILLENIALS
HANNA LACSAMANA
BAGUIO MIDLAND COURIER
This story talks about the importance of making the agriculture industry an attractive option for the youth. Benguet State University College of Agriculture is using computer softwares, models, and applications part of the college curriculum thus developing more progressive farmers who use science and technology rather than relying on old practicies.
FULL STORY
Making Agriculture Viable For Millennials
BEST AGRICULTURE FEATURE STORY-REGIONAL

MAKING AGRICULTURE VIABLE FOR MILLENIALS

HANNA LACSAMANA, BAGUIO MIDLAND COURIER


Making agriculture viable for millennials

Deciding a career to pursue in this smart- phone toting generation should not be as difficult as when professions were limited to those what parents wished for their children to study or to what youngsters really felt as their calling. Today, all one has to do is swipe their communication gadgets for an idea on what is “in” or trending online.

As studies would show, it will not come as a surprise if one that is related to information technology or those that keep pace with the digital trend would turn out as the prevailing career option of those born in the millennial era.

Nineteen-year-old Dexter Tad-o, however, did not need much thought when he decided to enroll in an agriculture course, despite the current demand for digital and information technology-related skills.

The interest must run in the blood, being born to parents who cultivate gardens in barangays Topdac and Cattubo, both in the highlands of Atok, Benguet where some of the high-value crops in the province are produced. Five from a brood of nine siblings have taken the same path. He and a brother are graduating with a degree in Bachelor of Science major in Plant Pathology and soon would be tinkering with “inputs” to get the desired “outputs” when planting cabbage or broccoli, while three of his older siblings have stopped schooling to send the two of them to school by working in their gardens back home.

As kids, he and all of his siblings have experienced helping out with whatever their young hands could get done in the farm after school hours and on weekends. For them, no one needed to be forced to help out. It is a tradition.

For single mom Freda, 27, decision-making was not that easy. Her plan of studying nursing did not pan out due to financial difficulties. She worked abroad, but decided to return home. While she qualified for a certificate after six months of studying dressmaking, she found herself working instead on vegetable gardens in a barangay in Mt. Kabuyao in Tuba, Benguet.

She is a member of a small group of farmers there who recently started producing organic highland crops, in the hope of earning a living within a forest reserve without causing so much harm through sustainable farm practices. She is one of those who would welcome support either from the government and private sector, so that producing less attractive but chemical-free crops would find regular customers who appreciate safety in food more than attractive packaging.

Having trained on urban gardening, organic crop production, entrepreneurship, and basic bookkeeping through the initiatives of her group called Everlasting Flower Growers Association, Freda has become one brawny and determined woman whose dream for a better life for herself and her five-year-old daughter Gywneth is pinned on a yet uncertain future in organic farming – including having to endure climbing on steep paths to reach the gardens on carved plateaus, at times with Gywneth, leisurely plucking her share of lettuce, in tow.

Dexter, who admitted he also nurtured a desire to be one of the 700 mushroom pickers currently needed in Canada and earn P100,000 to P150,000 a month; and Freda, who preferred to farm instead of going back abroad to work so that she could be with her daughter while she’s growing, are among the few in the current generation who have chosen to make it their business to study or remain in the production of food, a primary necessity but an unpopular path to tread in the millennial era.

They are among the few who dream for a better life not only for themselves but also for those who depend on land tilling as a livelihood source, which is reportedly dwindling by the number. By becoming a licensed plant pathologist, Dexter wants to prove how good farming practices come out of science – that one day might be relevant for the likes of Freda and young Gywneth – and so that agriculture would not have to be thought as a less fashionable profession like it is generally perceived.



Aging farmers, fewer students taking up agriculture

Despite the fact that the Philippines is a predominantly agricultural-based nation, when crops and livestock remain staples in everybody’s food basket, and farming remains the primary if not the only method to produce them, few of today’s college students line up to become a farmer or enroll in courses related to agriculture. Based on the latest Fresh Graduates Report by Jobstreet.com released on April 18, the list is topped by jobs in law/legal services, public relations, journalism, advertising, training and development, information technology, human resources, marketing, customer services, and quality control.

Another study released by networking site LinkedIn in 2017 showed there is an increasing demand for highly skilled jobs in various sectors, and it did not include one that is involved in food production. The top three most hired occupations, according to the site through its study, “Recruiting in the Philippines: A Special Report on the Philippines’ Skilled Workforce and How to Attract a Top Talent,” are sales professional, software developer, and customer service special specialist.

More notable are reports reaching colleagues from the agriculture academe in the Cordillera that confirm the decreasing trend of enrollees in some of the universities in the country specializing in agricultural courses.

Dr. Danilo Padua, former dean and currently a faculty member of the Department of Agronomy of the Benguet State University College of Agriculture, indicated that knowing the consequences of such reports need not much thought: If the aging farmers, including those who are licensed to conduct research and devise modes to support and improve the sector, will not have anyone following their footsteps, the food chain would be seriously disrupted.



Disproving perceptions on farmers as poor workers

Padua said it is very ironic that some people consider the farm as some sort of a jail, from which they want to be out. Farmers, up to now, are believed to be poor, which is proven by the reluctance of some to do away with traditional harmful practices and the presence of the middleman system that leaves farm producers with the least profits. Many look down on what was supposed to be a high calling, due to the low return on a backbreaking investment.

“It is ironic because they are producing what we need. Here in the Cordillera, it is true that very few now wanted to farm, and the situation is similar not only in the entire country but in the international situation as well,” Padua said.

He said the challenge now, as far as the leading agriculture college in the Cordillera is concerned, is to get as many of the selfie generation babies as possible interested in and choose food production as an important and viable career.

“We are trying to equip our students to become an entrepreneur, inculcate in them love of the farm, and for them to get back to the farm when they finish,” he said.



“Agricoolture”: Making agriculture a trendy and viable career

With the prevailing use of digital and online formats that made available information and techniques in almost every field, the traditional classroom for agricultural courses at BSU found the need to break down the confining walls and get online, in order for the university to realize its goal of providing quality education to enhance food security, sustainable communities, industry innovation, and climate resilience, among others.

BSU College of Agriculture Dean Janet Pablo said computer softwares, models, and applications available online are now used as part of the college curriculum for professors to catch up and make agriculture an attractive course to would-be college students.

Along with the giant shift that started two years ago, Pablo said they have introduced “Agricoolture,” where students get access to app-based programs implemented by BSU in collaboration with entities like Philippine Rice Research Institute to learn latest technologies in various fields of agriculture.

“With this program, nabibigyan ang mga bata ng insight na puwedeng hindi lang sa farm matututunan at maia-apply ang mga theories, na merong mga technology na makakatulong. They can venture in research or in production since they could use the app for instance to determine and report the presence of pests in a particular setting using IT or app-based methods,” Pablo explained.

For other fields, the college has been using software like the Easy Leaf Area, which allows one to gather parameters for plant growth.

For Animal Science, models available online such as STELLA, which makes use of computer to predict animal production, can now be used by students.

Madeleine Kingan, one of those who have used the model, was able to predict how much weight an animal could gain on a daily basis using different nutrient contents of feedstock, the purpose of which is to reduce costs or to give one who is venturing in animal production business the most effective intervention to use in breeding animals.

“Ang kagandahan ng simulation is you will be able to put in as many interventions and innovations as possible and choose which among these will have the most significant effect before trying it on field, instead of having no idea which will have the chances of being useful,” Kingan said. The model, which can also be used in determining different nutrient levels of different ration combinations, reduction of mortality of native stock, which results are presented in a table or graph, is now used in cow, goat, and originally applied in fish production.

Pablo said it is especially useful now with the farmers’ need to adapt with climate change. “We need to predict, we have to forecast with the changing climatic conditions today,” she said.

Products of modern technology such as smart phones are also allowed in the classroom, particularly in doing assignments, papers, and reports, and are helpful as well in plagiarism check.

Along with traditional trainings and seminar series hosted by the college on related topics that can help students keep up with trends and changing times, both Agriculture students and faculty staff engage in mobility programs, where they get immersed with the latest technologies and practices through collaboration with local and foreign universities, the latest of which is the exchange lecture and training on strawberry production by BSU with the universities of Huelva and Oviedo in Spain.



Entrepreneur-based agriculture, farm tourism, value adding

Another feature that is emphasized in the agriculture curriculum is changing mindsets towards agriculture by considering it as a free enterprise, pursuant to Republic Act 10816 or the Farm Tourism Development Act of 2016, where students, upon finishing their degree could choose becoming farmer-entrepreneurs by making their farms sustainable through tourism.

“We agree that it is the way to go, aside from the various ways that a mere farm producer could add value to their raw products,” deans Pablo and Padua said.

Farming, Pablo said, can now be upgraded as a private enterprise by making it a learning site, injecting science-based agriculture, which one would increase a farm’s income.

Padua added that farmers may now also engage in food processing where value addition takes place, hopefully to attract students to consider the work’s viability. “If they see that they can get more by adding value like processing their own produce, it should not be hard to convince students into this field. Siguro mas maraming maa-attract sa agriculture, mas maraming babalik,” Padua said.



Progressive, science-based farmers

The problem is that many of the current farmers did not specialize or at least have a college degree. Also, based on experience, Padua said it is hard for some farmers to do away with practices they got used to. “For them it is to see to believe, and they wouldn’t like to start first.”

He said although a degree is not a requirement for one to become a farmer, the ever evolving time requires a farmer to be progressive.

“A progressive farmer is someone who has a scientific mind, those who by themselves would experiment on what should be done, and this will be possible when one constantly reads and knows how to listen. They must be willing to use new technologies and are willing to adapt. If you did not have education, mahihirapan ka magbasa o umintindi ng mga related technical matters,” Padua said.

If there is lack of learned farmers, Padua predicts that all of us will suffer, and so that makes agriculture that important.

“To solve the problem, what we aim to have in our farms today are those who studied and finished agriculture, para more scientific ang gagawin nila. Ito sana ang mangyayari,” Padua said.

In high school, Dexter found himself excelling in school activities and subjects related to agriculture, and got awards for it. With his background, he got acquainted with things like pests and chemicals that either diminish or improve the quality of produce, and how a farmer usually does not earn enough for a day’s hard work. Given a choice, Dexter said he would return to Atok, have his own farm garden, or go abroad to learn planting techniques that are not available here, and come back home to build a laboratory where he could build a career on crops and all the things he learned from school about the farm business.

Freda, for herself, says with proper guidance she would not mind whatever her daughter chooses to become in the future. With a mind set on helping her group refine their planting system for them to meet weekly orders for organic lettuce and other crops from their clients – for her to meet the needs of a growing child, Freda said there would not be any prouder mom than her if Gywneth decides to follow her steps.
BEST ONLINE STORY
HOW BEEKEEPING HELPED A SORSOGON COCONUT FARM
MA. VICTORIA CONDE
RAPPLER
This is a story about a disaster-vulnerable and poor village in the Philippines’ Bicol region that is now starting on the path towards resilience, food security, and sustainable economic growth with help of “kiwot” bees.
FULL STORY
How Beekeeping Helped A Sorsogon Coconut Farm
BEST ONLINE STORY

HOW BEEKEEPING HELPED A SORSOGON COCONUT FARM

MA. VICTORIA CONDE, RAPPLER

How beekeeping helped a Sorsogon coconut farm

SORSOGON, Philippines – Thirty-eight-year-old Leony Gabiazo could have been a simple housewife but thanks to the thriving beekeeping in this province in the Bicol region, she and her husband have a job.

In 2000, Gabiazo was a stay-at-home mother taking care of her 3 children while her husband Dennis Dominguez was working at a newly opened bee farm in the province, now known as Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm (BBu). Eventually, farm owner Luz Gamba-Catindig expanded to coconut plantations because “kiwot” bees (Tetragonula biroi) are excellent pollinators. (READ: 11 fascinating facts about bees, the most important pollinators)

Gabiazo would later join her husband as part of the production staff for bee products like honey, pollen, and propolis.



Coconut pollination with kiwot bees

The Villa Corazon farm in Bulusan town is 7-hectare coconut plantation and an annex of BBu farm. It has been pollinating coconut trees with stingless “kiwot” bees, which are native to the Philippines and are known pollinators of high-value crops like mangoes, pili, and coconut.

As coconut pollinators, kiwot bees have helped the farm increase its yield by 35% to 50%.

“The reason for the higher yield is that fewer young coconuts fall to the ground,” Catindig said.

“The tiny size of the bees let them penetrate the coconut flowers,” explained former BBu beekeeping consultant Floreza Palconitin-Broqueza, daughter of the late Rodolfo Palconitin.

Catindig started to feel the improvement in yield 6 months after using kiwot bees for pollination, and since then harvests have been good even after typhoons.(READ: Can bees help end hidden hunger?)

That called for 4 regular farm workers, and Dominguez responded.

He left bee hunting in the wild and became a full-time farm worker. “My husband is earning P300 per day and gets a P10,000 bonus every time harvest is good, either from Villa Corazon or BBu,” Gabiazo said.



Techno-demo farm

Catindig and her farmers trained under the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) Bee Program headed by Dr Cleofas Cervancia, which involved an intensive beekeeping course. With constant monitoring from her mentors, Bbu became a project site – a learning ground for existing and interested beekeepers and crop growers.

As a techno-demo farm, BBu is able to give beekeeping training to more bee hunters and community members through sponsored programs. They would learn that there's no need to burn the forest for honey and there are livelihood opportunities from beekeeping.

Catindig got her first kiwot colonies from slash-and-burn farmers who also hunted for bees in the wild. She initially bought 5 colonies in 2004, and 1,000 more later, rescuing the bees in the process. (READ: Flies, wasps, beetles are important pollinators too – study)



Then the farm began showing results.

“We harvest once in every year (instead of several times because it rains most of the time in the area),” said Catindig. The sweet and sour kiwot honey costs P3,000 per gallon.

She added that while the Tetragonula species do not produce as much honey as other species because of their size, unlike other species, they produce pollen and propolis.

People would also visit the bee farm and pitch the hammock they brought with them. Later, there would be requests for a place to stay so the farm now rents out huts and villas.

Gabiazo said with a smile the most important change in their lives is in their income. "Now we have a carabao, a motorcycle, a tricycle and a piggery because of the bonus we get from the farms," she said.

Aside from the Dominguez couple and Gabiazo’s brother-in-law, the coconut farm has 4 part-time workers.

One of the 16 regular workers at the farm said the job has helped provide their family enough money. “I don’t have to go to Manila to provide my family’s basic needs.” (READ: 1.4B jobs depend on pollinators – report)

There are 18 more on-call whose task is maintaining the farm gardens and tending more plants that bees like. This beekeeping essential enhances biodiversity, as it not only encourages the planting of nectar plants but also increases plants through pollination.

Beekeeping also requires organic farming since bees will not survive chemical sprays.

A caretaker of the coconut farm said pineapple and banana intercrops are also spared from pesticides, to protect the bees.

Workers and visitors get to eat fresh, organic food at the bee farm. "My kids get to eat pure honey too," Gabiazo added.

Cervancia, for her part, said of the farm: “It’s kind of a showcase. If people can see that the farm is earning, they will believe and they will be encouraged.” (READ: Sugar gives bees a happy buzz – study)



Banner agri program of Bulusan

The municipality of Bulusan adopted the beekeeping project as its banner agriculture program in 2017 with the aid of the Agriculture Training Institute (ATI). Its 40 beneficiaries – mostly bee hunters and recipients of lands in upland areas – reside in the outskirts of Mt Bulusan.

The project’s main objective is to improve the farmers’ productivity, which is also one of the main goals set by the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) in its 2018-2022 road map for the industry.

Each beneficiary received 11 colonies of kiwot bees, which were bought from 6 bee hunters for P500 per colony. Some of the beneficiaries bought a few more colonies, giving the hunters who are beneficiaries themselves, additional income.

One of them is Jose Furaque of Kapangihan in Bulusan who said he bought more colonies as he has enough space in his backyard.

Bulusan Mayor Michael Gusayko said there have been fewer requests for financial aid from the groups since they started the project. (READ: How residents make a living out of their home, Lake Bulusan)

A big and healthy pollination hive can yield 3 bottles of honey, said Cecilia Olan who monitors all the beneficiaries and also a beneficiary herself. A bottle with 750 mililiters costs P900.

With the beneficiaries living nearby coconut plants, these get pollinated too like the neighboring farms.

Proper profiling helps in the positive community response to this project. As in the words of Gabiazo, as former hunters, "their interest with the bees is already there."



Climate change mitigation

According to a UN-HABITAT report on Sorsogon’s vulnerability to climate change, the province is at risk of extreme tropical cyclones which locals associate with climate change.

The province has been experiencing more than the average 3 cyclones in two years and more rain volume and stronger winds from typhoons. Climate change also causes increasing incidence of evacuation of families from urban coastal areas, especially those living in informal settlements, and riverbank erosion.

Cervancia said kiwot bees can help in mitigating climate change because they visit more economic plants based on pollen analysis. They make fast ecosystem recovery possible too through intense pollination.

When Typhoon Nina hit the region in 2016, villagers from Bulusan were among the more than 10,000 evacuees who fled flooding. Both the Balay Buhay sa Uma Bee Farm and Villa Corazon Farm recovered fast though, despite losing many of their colonies.



More women in training

More women in the community are also following the steps of Gabiazo. Cervancia said a majority of the training participants in the second part of the program are women because the training involves a meticulous process, from picking the pollen and extracting the honey to separating the propolis. (READ: Climate change: Why PH should care)

Such livelihood opportunities prevent family breadwinners from engaging in environmentally destructive activities such as slash-and-burn farming and deforestation.

Through agro-tourism, the bee farm gives jobs to these farmers, their housewives, and other community breadwinners, like what the Aggrupation of Advocates for Environmental Protection (AGAP-Bulusan) did in Bulusan Volcano Natural Park.

The park's rich vegetation makes Bulusan an ideal place for beekeeping, while at the same time protecting it and the communities in lowland and coastal areas through beekeeping.

Indeed for Cervancia, the most important takeaway from beekeeping is the conservation awareness a person develops. It makes people protectors of the environment especially if they know their livelihood depends on it. (READ: Will you survive a world severely battered by climate change?)

As livelihood source, it motivates them to do more from teaching their families the do's and don'ts to harvesting honey and product development.

“I first learned how to harvest honey through my husband,” Gabiazo shared.

Furaque’s sons, who are approximately in their twenties, could also tell which pollination hives have honey.

Catindig brought with her the Dominguez couple in trainings and seminars she had attended in the country, equipping them with skills of an able technician.

Beekeeping, therefore, becomes a family enterprise, and in Catindig’s case, a community livelihood.



Sustainable, viable enterprise

Beekeeping is an emerging industry in the Philippines. With the right intervention and strategies, it is “seen to address food security and provide income-generating opportunities to Filipinos,” Rita dela Cruz for bar.gov.ph.

Focusing on native bees allows for sustainable beekeeping: the native bees lessen the need for imported bees and also reduce start-up costs.

As former Bicol Regional Apiculture Center head Maria Dulce Mostoles said, beekeeping “is just right for many families who can’t afford sophisticated housing.” It promotes conservation too.

The pollination hive developed by UPLB is easy to mass produce; supports large-scale pollination services, and allows production of quality products in an easy processing and hygienic way.

If adopted by the entire province of Sorsogon, almost 50,000 coconut-dependent farmers in the province will benefit from this. In 2015, only 7.6 million of the province's 9.5 million coconut trees were fruit-bearing. It can also be replicated across the country, where 68 of 81 provinces are planted with coconut.

Kiwot bees can help senile coconut trees bear fruits. In ideal conditions, kiwot bees can increase yield by 80%, and coconut provides adequate pollen for the bees as it continues to bloom all-year round.

Even with the recent improvement in coconut production, the Philippine coconut industry has yet to tap its potential in exports. For agriculture columnist Dr William Dar, “addressing low yields at the farm level can be an excellent move to helping realize that.”

His recommendation? To put measures that help poor farmers earn more. Under the PCA road map, it means improving coconut yields and at the same time creating value-added products that naturally come with coconut production.

Are these not what Catindig’s farms in the Bicol region have been efficiently doing, first through beekeeping and then through coconut pollination?
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