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2021 WINNERS

BEST TOBACCO PHOTO OF THE YEAR

"SURVIVING TOBACCO TURN GOLD"
LAILA AUSTRIA
BAGUIO CHRONICLE

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RHOY COBILLA
EDGE DAVAO

Agriculture Story of the Year 
“GLOBAL SHIPMENT WOES: ADDITIONAL SHOCKS TO PHL'S FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN (Part 1) SUPPLY STIFFNESS TO STAY AS SHIPMENT ISSUES SEEN SPILLING PAST YULE SEASON (Part 2)”
CAI ORDINARIO & TYRONE JASPER C. PIAD
BUSINESS MIRROR
This two-part story talks about the impact of the global supply chain disruption and its effect on the country's food and non-food supply chain.
FULL STORY
2021 Agriculture story
PART 1: GLOBAL SHIPMENT WOES: ADDITIONAL SHOCKS TO PHL’S FOOD SUPPLY CHAIN

IT will take about a foot for a spoonful of food to reach the mouth; to reach the dining
table, it’s farther than that. Nearly 10,000 nautical miles: 9,629, to be exact. That is the
distance between the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest seaport, and the Manila
International Container Terminal, the Philippines’ busiest port.
That is also the exact length it takes for a container of pork products from the world’s
top exporter of pork to arrive in the world’s ninth-biggest consumer of pork meat.
Vice versa, it’s also the same mileage that shipments of virgin coconut oil from the
Philippines, one of two of the world’s largest exporters, cover upon reaching Europe.
Prior to the pandemic year, it took about a month to a month and a half on average to
complete one delivery; either of pork from Europe to the Philippines, or coconut oil from
the Philippines to Europe. Today, it takes an eternity…of sorts.
The grounding of the Ever Given at the Suez Canal in March came at the worst time,
compounding the persisting global shipping problems that stemmed from
Covid-19-related lockdowns and problems that started late last year.
After certain economies, such as China and the United States, reopened their
economies in the latter part of 2020, global trade took one hellacious ride: lack of
shipping vessels and container imbalance.

Woes, headaches
SINCE most of the vessels and containers were docked in the West after global trade
was put on halt due to the health pandemic, importers and exporters had to scramble in
seeking to source their logistical needs.
The scrambling led from one problem to another; it has shaken industries and their
captains on how to thrive amid today’s uncertainties: delayed shipping arrivals and near
record-high freight costs.
For the Philippines, a country that is not considered a major trading port in the global
trade, these problems mean a myriad of headaches.
Royal Cargo Inc. Chief Operating Officer Jet B. Ambalada was straightforward about it:
the country is facing a “perfect storm.”
“We are facing shipping and logistics problems. For example in Europe, there are a lot
of delays due to Covid-19 problems and challenges such as lockdowns,” Ambalada told
the BusinessMirror. “We are now encountering two weeks to a month’s delays in our
arrivals.”
He explained that the problem in the global shipping industry emerged last year when
the global economy ground to a halt as the virus risked those operating the gears of the
trade. Due to lockdown measures, the number of drivers and ship captains allowed to
work were pared down and vessels and containers were grounded in major ports like
those in Europe and the US.

Overwhelmed with orders
HOWEVER, when global trade gained a bit of momentum last year, the shipping
industry was overwhelmed with orders from developed countries like the US and China.
This resulted in a container imbalance. Countries that are not major shipping points or
routes, like the Philippines, were at the losing end, Ambalada told the BusinessMirror.
He added that container-turnaround is also delayed due to lack of drivers in Europe,
which is experiencing its third wave of Covid-19, with the spread of more transmissible
variants.
Ambalada said huge economies like China, Singapore and the US have been more
aggressive in terms of imports and exports, thus concerning the bulk of the available
vessels and containers in the world.
“The major problem is that our transshipment points are already congested. For
example, Singapore and China ports are congested since these countries are sourcing
a lot of raw materials,” he said.

Rising costs
DUE to this situation, shipping costs for exports have increased “10-fold” with outbound
shipments being delayed by a month to three months at worst, Ambalada pointed out.
He said the cost of shipping one dry container from Manila to the European Union has
ballooned to $5,000 from the usual $800 (about P38,424.40 at current exchange rates).
Shipping one 20-foot container from Manila to the US West Coast used to cost only
about a maximum of $1,000 (P48,030.50); it’s now hitting $5,000 (P240,152.50).
Inter-Asia shipping rates have also ballooned to unprecedented levels with the
Philippines to China route costing now as much as $2,000 from the usual $200, since
we are outside the “preferred routes” of shipping companies, Ambalada added.
“We are being outbidded by our neighbors who can afford $5,000. The question is, who
can bite the bullet among our exporters? Instead of catering to the Philippines, the
vessels will just go to China en route to Europe since they can pay higher,” he
explained.
Increase in shipping costs of importing goods from Europe and the US to the Philippines
“is not significant” since there are available containers and vessels from these areas,
Ambalada told the BusinessMirror.
He said they started to experience the problem in the last quarter of 2020 after countries like China started to buy more imports and were able to jump-start their economy again amid the pandemic; hence, exporting more goods than any other country.

Key issues
FELIX Ishizuka, president and CEO of Reefer Filipinas Express Line Inc., said it is
undeniable that the industry was overwhelmed when demand surged in the latter half of last year.
“It is always supply and demand. Obviously, the demand went up and the container
supply is scarce in every port due to congestion,” Ishizuka added.
Also contributing to the delays, he said, are the rules of countries to quarantine cargo
and shipments in a bid to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“China, for example, is getting heavy congestion for fresh produce. Normally they do not
quarantine these; but now every container must undergo a minimum of three days,”
Ishizuka said. “That is obviously going to pile up.”
He explained that the unavailability of space is felt across all segments of the shipping
industry from dry cargo containers, break bulk to reefers.
Ishizuka pointed out that the cost of renting a reefer ship has now skyrocketed to
$25,000 per day from the $9,000 per day to $10,000 per day recorded in June of last
year.
“Freight cost is crazy right now; it is now at a level never seen before; never seen these
reefer ship prices in the last 15 years of the industry,” Ishizuka told the BusinessMirror.
“The most affected businesses are the small players who ship 5 containers at
maximum.”
He added that the cost of moving used cars from Japan to the West Coast, say South
America, is now at $5,000 per container from $1,000.
Uncertain that unloaded imported cargo would have an export replacement, importers
are now shouldering additional costs in the form of prepositioning fees, Ishizuka said.


Effect to consumers
CONSUMERS ultimately suffered, and still suffer, since rising freight costs and other
additional costs are just passed on to them, American Chamber of Commerce of the
Philippines Agribusiness Committee Co-Chairman Christopher A. Ilagan told the
BusinessMirror.
“Generally speaking, the global shipping and/or logistics issues we face today affect the
cost effectiveness and efficiency of our supply chains,” Ilagan said. “The rising freight
costs ultimately put pressure on general consumer prices as these are often just passed
on to final consumers.”
He said some of their members “have been seeing delays in their imports and exports,
ranging from a few weeks to a few months,” forcing them to “create new ways of coping
with these realities.”
“One such coping mechanism comes in the form of building up of buffer stocks—with
clear implications on working capital and warehouse costs,” Ilagan told the
BusinessMirror.

Restarting economies
ILAGAN added they observed that another way of coping has to do with shippers
getting creative with inter-modal transport options. He cited as example: from the
traditional full reliance on ocean shipping from origin to destination, a shipper has
considered a mix of utilizing air freight to get to a transshipment site that can
accommodate a shorter delivery time to the final destination port via sea.
Ilagan said it is becoming “clear” that the fastest countries that would reach herd
immunity against Covid-19 would “emerge faster” in the new normal of global trade;
thus, reaping benefits of the global economic restart.
“Because of this uneven return to the ‘new normal,’ it wouldn’t be surprising that the
laggard countries may find themselves having difficulties coping with shipment and
logistics delays and elevated costs,” he told the BusinessMirror.
“The faster we can move to the ‘new normal’ in the Philippines, the faster the
Philippines can take advantage of the global economic restart,” Ilagan added.

Slowed down
THE global container imbalance and lack of vessels have caused shipments of meat
imports to arrive in about three to four months. This could derail the Duterte
government’s plan to bring in cheaper imported protein sources with its pork tariff
reduction and increase in the minimum access volume (MAV).
“We now are looking at three months to four months of arrival,” Meat Importers and
Traders Association (Mita) President Jesus C. Cham told the BusinessMirror. “There’s a
lot of congestion caused by Covid-19 pandemic. It has created an imbalance in trade
with containers going one way and the others returning without a back-load.”
Cham added that North America is also reeling from the impact of severe winters that
have slowed down the movement of people, trucks and cargoes in the West.
“We will know only of the additional charges when the cargo arrives; and they are
delayed. Upon arrival, we will see the destination charges,” he said.
“The CIF cost of a headless pork carcass has gone up to $3 per kilogram from $1.5 per
kilogram,” Cham added.
Cham warned that given the delays in shipments, the government’s pork-tariff reduction
to as low as 5 percent for in-quota volume and 15 percent for out-quota volume may not be maximized.
“Only the pre-ordered [batch] will benefit but the new orders may not, since it takes us
now at least three months for new orders,” Cham explained.

Upended process
AMBALADA, who is also a director of the Philippine Association of Meat Processors
Inc., warned that the current shipping and logistics problem is worsened by the
challenge of sourcing raw materials for food manufacturers, like processors.
Furthermore, delays in arrival of imported goods may pose food security problems for
the country, he added.
For example, meat processors are now struggling to import mechanically deboned meat
of chicken since the country lost about 60 percent of its import source after the
government slapped temporary blanket bans on European countries over bird flu
concerns, Ambalada explained.
“This is really a perfect storm. If this won’t be eased or resolved, then we’re up for a
looming major food shortage. Take, for example, processed meat products,” he said.
“What will be our alternative protein source if we lose processed meat products or they
hike their prices amid rising pork and chicken retail prices?”

Noted problems
IN an exclusive interview with the BusinessMirror, a staff of the Philippine Coconut
Authority (PCA) said coconut oil (CNO) exporters are booking their shipments in
advance—about two weeks to a month before target shipment date—as a “stop-gap”
solution to the ongoing global container and vessel imbalance.
The person familiar with PCA operations pointed out that the impact of these problems
were “greatly noted” in July last year when the country’s CNO exports “dropped to its
lowest” at 7,863.15 metric tons (MT).
“With this problem, to be able to deliver the goods as per agreed contract, what our
exporters do is to book their shipment with the shippers in advance, two weeks to a
month before the target shipment date,” the person familiar with the PCA said.
The person said the PCA, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture,
disclosed that the Department of Trade and Industry is already looking into the problem
and is looking to come up with a solution to mitigate the impact of the problems on one
of the country’s top agricultural exports.
According to the person familiar with the PCA, the trade and industry department’s
Committee on Logistics of the Export Development Council has been conducting
consultation meetings with the exporters, shipping and logistics companies to minimize
the impact of this problem to our exports.
“Advance booking is still the stop-gap solution at the moment,” the source at the PCA
told the BusinessMirror.

Imports, exports
THE ongoing global logistical problem adds another problem to the country’s CNO
exports that have been suffering from supply problems in recent years.
In fact, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed that the total value of the
country’s CNO exports last year declined by 9.1 percent to $846 million despite a
rebound in prices.
A Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) report projected that the country’s
CNO exports in market year 2021 to 2022 will continue to decline for the third straight
year due to “logistical problems from importing countries as a result of the Covid-19
pandemic.”
The report noted that the country’s top markets for its CNO are Europe and the US,
which have been reeling from the impact of the global shipping problems.
The GAIN report, prepared by the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural
Service in Manila, estimated that CNO exports from October-to-September of next year
would decline to 875,000 MT from 925,000 MT recorded in the previous market year.

Tight margins
PHILIPPINE banana exporters are also reeling from rising shipping costs and shipment
delays, which they estimate may slash the country’s profit from the prized yellow fruit by
at least 15 percent.
Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) said the rising shipping
costs, brought about by the global shipping problem due to Covid-19-induced problems,
are further “eroding” the “already tight margins” of exporters in all markets.
PBGEA Chairman Alberto F. Bacani told the—their shipping costs have increased by 15
percent to 20 percent compared to last year’s average quotations.
For example, Bacani said the cost of shipping a container of bananas to Saudi Arabia
has risen to $3,000 from the usual quotation of $2,600 (about P124,879.30 at current
exchange rates).
Due to this, Bacani noted that profits by the industry this year would be slashed by
double-digit rates.
“You can assume the same amount of the increase in shipping costs—about 15-percent
reduction,” Bacani, who is also the President and CEO of Unifrutti Tropical Philippines
Inc., told the BusinessMirror.
“With market prices generally staying the same year-on-year, the rise in shipping costs
have eroded the already tight margins of banana exporters in all markets,” he added.

Equally affected
WORSE, the rise in costs is coupled with shipping delays from Davao to the Middle
East, with shipments arriving within 30 days to 33 days—from the usual average of 25
days, Bacani told the BusinessMirror.
He further explained that the transit delay was caused by the “continued spillover effect
from the port congestions in China and Singapore that started at the end of 2020.”
The congestion, Bacani pointed out, caused feeder vessels to miss scheduled
connecting dates with the intended mother vessels in Singapore and Shekou.
“This congestion has affected all shipping lines from Davao since all of them rely on the
same feeder vessel service from Davao offered by CMA and RCL, meaning all banana
exporters from Davao are equally affected by the delayed transit time,” he said.
The increase in freight costs has put the Philippines in a tighter corner against its rising
Vietnamese and Cambodian competitors in securing market share in the growing
market that is China.
“Vietnam and Cambodia, given their proximity to China, are the last affected by these
increased freight costs, making their bananas even cheaper now versus Philippine
bananas compared to last year,” Bacani said.
Indeed, it appears it would take a long way for the Philippines to recover to a position of
strength in matters of logistics.

PART 2: SUPPLY STIFFNESS TO STAY AS SHIPMENT ISSUES SEEN SPILLING PAST YULE
SEASON

SUPPLY constraints were already a given before the Ever Given blocked the Suez
Canal: lockdowns are to blame and exporters are seen to put up with the setback for a
long term. And merchants relying on revenues from sending goods out of the country’s
borders—nay, the whole economy itself have no other choice but to adjust operations
and hold on tight during this bumpy ride.
The Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines (SCMAP) told the
BusinessMirror that the concern regarding shipment delays is not going away any time
soon.
“We have been told that these issues may persist even after the Christmas rush,” the
group said.
Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport) Assistant Vice President Flordeliza
C. Leong told the BusinessMirror that exporters started dealing with shipment delays in
the last quarter of 2020 when production began picking up anew.
While there is no conclusive report yet, Leong said that delays usually range from two
weeks to a month.
The bottlenecks were caused by the schedule changes, occasional vessel omissions
and increasing shipment rates, Leong’s group said.
“However, in recent months these issues have gotten worse, with shipping lines not
confirming space beyond contracted allocations and rates going up as high as three
times more, especially for long-haul shipments,” the group told the BusinessMirror.

Book shipments
LEONG explained that the delays are also being caused by the piling up of goods in the
shipping lines and the traffic going to the ports. In addition, she noted that ports have no regular operations at the moment and employees are working in shortened hours amid the pandemic, among others.
The Philexport official said that she already talked to traders and logistics service
providers to find solutions to the shipping delays. But it appears that the sector is on a
deadlock.
“There is nothing to do but to wait [if there is a shipping container already],” she
lamented. However, Leong said it may help if exporters consolidate their orders and
book early shipments.

End-customers
ASIDE from export-oriented firms, importers have also experienced delays in
shipments, which are seen to impact manufacturing and, ergo, consumption of the
country, SCMAP Executive Director Corazon C. Curay told the BusinessMirror.
The shipments that are taking a longer time to deliver include raw materials; and
finished goods, which are usually purchased through e-commerce, Curay said. There
could also be potential shortage of stocks and price increases that the customers have
to deal with as a result, she added.
“For our end customers, this will result in products missing from shelves and higher
prices, which is not ideal considering our continued battle against Covid-19 and its
long-term economic impact,” SCMAP added.
But Leong said that it is fortunate that customers understand the shipping delays.
“The good thing about this is it is a global thing,” Leong said. “Alam din ng mga buyers
nila na this is happening.” [The buyers are aware of the situation.]

Imports arrangement
SOME importers manufacturing for exports are negotiating with their buyers to have a
longer turnaround period, she explained. If the buyers agree with the arrangement,
orders will not be cancelled anymore—and buyers are ready to deal with the delays as
well.
In general, Philexport said that exporters have accepted that they have to adjust their
production timeline as no concrete and long-term solution is in place yet.
However, there are still concerns for perishable items, Leong noted, adding that air
shipment is usually the solution to make sure the products arrive fresh. This may not be
applicable to some nonperishable items as fees could be higher if ever, she said.
Leong, on the positive side, said that she has not encountered an exporter who decided
to cut production because of the shipment delays.
A garment exporter, the Philexport official, is even seeing continuous flow of orders from the US.
However, “they have to decline orders only because of order capacity, not because of
the shipping problem,” she added.

Manufacturing issues
REPORTS from the BusinessMirror stated that shipping costs for exports have
increased “10-fold.”
Henry Basilio, chairman of the networking committee on transportation and logistics of
the Export Development Council (EDC), flagged in a recent statement the increasing
freight rates amid imbalances in the repositioning of empty containers.
Basilio noted that the cargo handling cost has doubled with the cranage fee amounting
to P1,587. This is on top of the arrastre fee of P1,575, Basilio said.
Cranage fee is the price paid for the use of cranes when loading and unloading ships.
Arrastre fee is charged for the handling, receiving and custody of shipments.
Basilio also noted that the proposed increase for out-of-gauge (OOG) cargo is 300
percent. OOG cargo refers to shipments that cannot fit into 6-sided shipping containers
because of their larger size.
Among Southeast Asian countries, standard OOG surcharge is only 50 percent based
on Association of International Shipping Lines tariff comparison, Basilio noted. An
exception is Tanjung Priok, the busiest Indonesian seaport.
“The proposed rates are exorbitant and will increase the cost of doing business, drive
away investors, and unduly burden existing manufacturing industries and export
companies,” he said. “While these intended charges are billable to the shipping lines,
this will directly impact the logistics cost and will ultimately be borne by the end
consumers.”
Meanwhile, Basilio expects the container imbalance to normalize this month amid
increased shipping logistics costs.

Affecting winners
DESPITE the exorbitant rates, University of the Philippines Professor Emeritus
Epictetus E. Patalinghug believes the increase in these costs were mainly due to the
low volumes and a select few ocean shipping carriers that dominated the market. This
would not likely affect the country’s export winners.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), exports in January dipped by 5.2
percent to $5.49 billion from $5.79 billion for the same month last year.
Based on preliminary data from the PSA, the country’s top export remains to be
electronic products. This brought in $3.24 billion in earnings for the country and
accounted for 59.1 percent of the country’s exports in January 2021.
The commodity is also the country’s top import. PSA data showed imported electronic
products were valued at $2.34 billion or a share of 29.6 percent to the total imports in
January 2021.
But “because of low volume and despite excess capacity, shipping costs have increased
by 10 percent—due to the market power of the dominant few ocean shipping carriers.
Electronics exports can be shipped via air, they are not affected,” Patalinghug told the
BusinessMirror.

Going bananas
FORMER dean of the School of Labor and Industrial Relations (Solair) Rene E. Ofreneo
shared Patalinghug’s view, saying that among electronic exports and imports, the top
product are semiconductors, particularly microchips, which can easily be transported.
“Pwede kasing isakay sa maleta [This can be transported through your luggage],”
Ofreneo explained to the BusinessMirror.
Based on the January data, semiconductors accounted for 43.2 percent of total exports.
This amounted to $2.37 billion in 2021, a 4.4-percent decline from the $2.48 billion
posted in the January 2020.
Ofreneo said it is reasonable to expect exports of goods shipped in bulk, such as
bananas, to sag.
To note, the country’s banana exports in January plunged 51 percent to 186,419.019
metric tons (MT), from last year’s 384,151.173 MT. PSA data earlier analyzed by the
BusinessMirror showed that the latest figure is the steepest decline in January banana
shipments since 2006.
Ofreneo added that bulky auto parts and electronics assemblies may also be affected
by the logistics nightmare.
Exports of other electronic products such as electronic data processing amounted to
$557.66 million while automotive electronics amounted to $8.06 million in January 2021
based on the PSA’s report. While electronic data processing saw a 24.4-percent growth
in January, automotive electronics suffered a 61.6-percent decline value.

Issued order
TO ease the cargo traffic, the SCMAP said government agencies should still implement
the measures they placed in response last year.
“We also call for the continued enforcement of the Joint Administrative Order (JAO)
issued by various government agencies at the beginning of the pandemic to facilitate
movement of cargo from Manila’s ports,” Curay told the BusinessMirror.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), along with several agencies, agreed to
release an order in April last year to decongest the ports of Manila to allow inbound
shipments of food, medicine and personal protective equipment. These government
agencies include Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), the Bureau of Customs, the
Department of Finance and the Department of Agriculture (DA).
Prior to this, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging
Infectious Diseases had instructed the PPA to remove the overstaying containers in the
ports to make way for incoming cargo containing essential goods.
Under the JAO, all cargo remaining beyond 30 days from discharge should be
withdrawn within five days from the effectivity date of the order. Containers scheduled to arrive after the issuance of order are required to be withdrawn 10 days from discharge.
The JAO also expedites customs clearance and streamline the process of applying for
import permits and clearances online.
“While these issues are out of our control due to its global nature, we believe our local
authorities can help reduce its impact,” Curay added. “The PPA and the Marina
[Maritime Industry Authority] must continue efforts to ensure sufficient capacity in ports
across the country, as well as improved efficiency.”

Needs slowdown
THE shipment delays may potentially cut the country’s export revenues this year.
“Definitely, the lockdown will affect our export target this year,” De La Salle University
(DLSU) Economist Maria Ella C. Oplas told the BusinessMirror.
According to the DTI, the goods and services exports were expected to drop by 14.7
percent to $80.5 billion in 2020 before growing by 12.4 percent to $90.5 billion this year.
Figures are anticipated to further rise by 14.8 percent to $103.9 billion in 2022, lower
than the earlier target of $130 billion as the pandemic severely impacted business
activities.
Oplas said shipment delays have affected the whole value chain. In addition, she noted
that manufacturing companies may need to slow down production because employees
cannot come to work, which meant fewer goods to be shipped out as well.
“It’s a domino effect on them,” she said.
On the demand side, the DLSU economist pointed out that orders from abroad could
have been fewer as well, as company-clients potentially scaled down their operations,
or worse, were forced to shutter.
Philexport’s Leong noted that shipment delays could also explain the lower export
revenues because the earnings will not be reflected immediately.

Added bottlenecks
FOR the semiconductor sector, a major contributor to the Philippines’s export industry,
shipment delays usually take weeks.
Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation Inc. (Seipi)
President Danilo C. Lachica told the BusinessMirror the industry’s supply chain has
been disrupted with the implementation of lockdowns.
Lachica noted that the reduced flights and ships have been causing bottleneck to the
shipments of semiconductor players.
But Seipi is not worried about not meeting the 7-percent growth forecast for this year.
Lachica said the Seipi has factored in this forecast.
Data from Seipi shows that electronics accounted for 65 percent of the total Philippine
exports in January. Exports for the segment inched up by 1.48 percent to $3.55 billion in
the first month of 2021 from $3.50 billion year-on-year, supported by growth in four
sectors.
Medical and/or industrial instrumentation led the sector with 84.31-percent growth to
$22.99 million for the period. Consumer electronics, electronic data processing and
control and instrumentation, grew by 28.2 percent, 24.38 percent and 8.89 percent,
respectively.
Meanwhile, automotive electronics declined by 61.64 percent; telecommunication, 27.24
percent; office equipment, 4.59 percent; components or devices, 4.37 percent; and,
communication or radar, 3.47 percent.
Last year, total electronic exports dropped by 8.8 percent to $39.67 billion from $43.39
billion.
The top destinations for Philippine electronics exports are China, Hong Kong, Japan,
Singapore and the United States of America.
Earlier, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said electronic exports were expected to
register further growth this year with the opening of more economies.

Temp checks
THE government recently extended the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ)
measure in the National Capital Region (NCR), Cavite, Rizal, Laguna and Bulacan for
another week or until April 11 amid surging Covid-19 cases.
While Seipi understands the rationale behind the move, Lachica said allowing full
occupancy of shuttle buses that follow the health protocols for the electronics sector
would be a big help.
“For electronics, allowing 100-percent occupancy for shuttle buses with plastic partitions
would help relieve the mounting costs,” he explained.
Lachica said the infections do not spread in such “clean shuttles,” even during an
upsurge of cases, because Covid-19 protocols are strictly enforced.
He noted the passengers wear face masks and face shields and are not allowed to talk,
eat or make phone calls. There are also disinfection and temperature checks, among
others, as safety measures.
“The pandemic affects the volume of exports and imports. Since our exports are
import-dependent, our net exports—exports less imports—will be down. On the other
hand, an import declining more than export declining means we have net dollar inflow
and is good for our balance of payments,” Patalinghug explained.
“Less trade volume, less shipping activities mean less port congestion. Less port
congestion means less logistics problems—there is excess capacity for logistics given
less goods to move to and from destinations and/or origins,” he added.

Impacts OFWs
HOWEVER, despite the numbers, Patalinghug said the Philippines is still not an
export-oriented economy. This means that the country’s recovery from the recession will not depend on trade but on consumption.
Patalinghug said remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and revenues
from business process outsourcing (BPO) matter more to the recovery. He noted that
despite the mobility restrictions and economies going into recession, earnings of these
sectors did not decline that much. As such, he said these can fuel domestic
consumption, which represents 72 percent of gross domestic product in Luzon,
determining the pace of the recovery.
One caveat, Ofreneo said, is that global trade also affects OFWs. Many global shipping
and logistics firms employ Filipino seafarers. The perfect storm in global trade, Ofreneo
said, would add to the existing challenge of the shipping and logistics industries to
automate and even use artificial intelligence (AI) in the hope of making their operations
more efficient.
“The only thing I know re shipping and logistics is the adverse impact on our seafarers
who are working in this sector. For example, Maersk, maraming [there are a lot of]
Pinoy. Jobs falling due to global recession. Also there is the trend towards leaner and
leaner ship cargo operations, facilitated by AI,” Ofreneo said.

Vegetables, rice
IN terms of food security, Patalinghug believes that rice and vegetables are still in
adequate supply in the country. While the African Swine Fever (ASF) continues to
ravage hog farms nationwide, there are pork substitutes such as poultry and fish that
can be consumed by Filipinos.
He added that the recent move by the agriculture department to recommend a higher
minimum access volume (MAV) quota for pork imports will help address the shortage
from domestic pork suppliers. This shortage has been blamed for the surge in pork
prices.
The PSA said the price of pork in the National Capital Region (NCR) averaged P329 per
kilo in March, a 59-percent increase from the P207 per kilo recorded in March last year.
Compared to February, when the price of pork averaged P323 per kilo, the increase
was slower at 1.8 percent.
In Areas Outside NCR (AONCR), pork prices averaged P312 per kilo in March, a
50-percent increase from the P208 per kilo in the same period last year. However,
compared to February, there was a 1.6-percent decline in pork prices. The average
price of a kilo of pork in these areas was pegged at P317.

Easing situation
“IN short, there is no probability of a food shortage—unless there is a food riot due to
fake information in the social media, but this possibility is remote,” Patalinghug,
nonetheless, told the BusinessMirror in April.
He cited the “maximum” inflation target of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) at “only
4 percent.”
Last week, monetary authorities slashed the central bank’s average inflation forecast for
this year from 4.2 percent to 3.9 percent.
Prior to this, Patalinghug said: “Let’s see if they can hit this target [4 percent].
“Reaching 10 percent—double digit—from 4.7 percent for this year is less of a
possibility, unless there is a food shortage—an unlikely scenario,” he added
Ofreneo added that a food shortage may not be possible given the high availability of
food imports in markets nationwide, particularly rice, pork and chicken.
To find a more sustainable solution, he said there is a need to increase support for local
producers. This support should help them and their products better compete with
imported goods that are currently available in the market.
Patalinghug believes the government has sufficient tools to address any shipping and
logistics problem. However, he emphasized, “there are no shipping and logistics
problems at present.”
Should a shipping or logistics problem arise, Patalinghug said the completion of Harbor
Link Road and Skyway Stage 3 will ease the situation.
“[This] despite the inefficiency of the DOTr [Department of Transportation] top
leadership, particularly its clueless Secretary,” Ofreneo said.
“If the government gets the competence to learn how to manage well the pandemic
problem, then the economy will be on the trajectory to growth, even without active
government intervention in terms of fiscal and monetary policy,” he added. “Certainty,
instead of fear due to the virus, and macroeconomic stability are the prerequisites for
recovery.”
TOBACCO STORY OF THE YEAR
“PERFECT STORM HITS ILOCOS AND ABRA TOBACCO FARMS”
FRANK CIMATU
BAGUIO CHRONICLE
This piece documents the experience of the farmers and how the LGUs and the government aided their recovery in the wake of the five-hour rains that devastated Ilocos Sur and Abra tobacco fields. It also tackles the effects of climate change on tobacco production and how technology can aid in taming the weather.
FULL STORY
2021 Tobacco Story
Perfect storm hits Ilocos and Abra tobacco farms

HEAVY rains came before the end of January 29 and ended more than five
hours later at the dawn of January 30.
It was a rude awakening for more than 15,300 tobacco farmers, said
Cesar Sambrana, deputy administrator for operations of the National Tobacco
Administration.
That makes up almost half of all the tobacco farmers in the country.
Forty-six-year-old Francisca Raquepo of San Emilio planted Virginia
Tobacco in their half-hectare homestead last November and woke up on
January 30 with her crops already soaked in water.
After a day, she literally saw her year’s income wilt like the drooping
tobacco leaves.
“We borrowed money and hoped we could pay after March. Now we’re
twice poorer than when we started,” she said.
“It took a long time for me to convince myself to plant tobacco and then
this happens,” said Gerry Barber from Pilar, Abra.
In industry parlance, drooping leaves are called “flopped” leaves.
Flopped leaves flooded the social media pages of Ilocanos at the start of
February.
It was indeed a perfect storm that hit them.
“Usually, farmers start planting tobacco in October but Tropical Storm
Maring hit us that month,” said Deputy Speaker Kristine Singson Meehan.
That storm caused more than P500 million damage to agriculture at
that time.
But the rains that came at the end of January were equally devastating.
Meehan said that in her congressional district, which incidentally is the
top producer of Virginia Tobacco in the country, 5,706 farmers cultivating
2,677 hectares of tobacco land were affected by the freak rains.
That translated to a value of P255.655 million in damages, she added.
According to Sambrana, the total damage in Regions I, II and the
Cordilleras amounted to half a billion pesos.
“That is equivalent to five million kilos (of Virginia Tobacco),” he said.
Many were not able to plant again because of the lack of seeds, he
added.
Even as Meehan and Sambrano were meeting the affected tobacco
farmers at the Candon City Hall last February 23, 87-year-old Virgilio Torres
was already curing his harvested tobacco in his private barn in Tablac,
Candon City at that time.
“We were lucky,” said his daughter-in-law Verlina Rodriguez in Ilocano.
“Our crops were at a higher elevation.”
But their luck may not even be enough.
According to Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur Councilor Benny Dagdag, more
than 90 percent of those recently flue-cured tobacco leaves in his municipality
were already classified as rejects.
The heavy rains caused nitrogen to leach out of the soil, causing the
surviving leaves to turn yellow.
The freak rains caused the roots in many of the surviving tobacco to
suffocate when the soil was filled with water. The roots died and began to rot.
Fertilizers would have cut the damage if applied on time. But the
problem, according to Rep. Meehan, was that the price of fertilizers also
increased.
Firewood for curing tobacco also became more expensive, she said.
To salvage the remaining tobacco plants, Meehan met up with the NTA
and the tobacco farmers groups in her province.
She said that among the strategies they thought of were providing
farmers with knapsack sprayers for the application of biostimulants and foliar
fertilizer to sustain the growth and development of the surviving tobacco
plants.
About 3,200 of these sprayers were distributed last February 23 at the
Candon City Hall.
Meehan said that the distribution of biostimulants and fertilizers will
follow.
They also set up the chicken layer assistance program and the
distribution of vegetable seeds to the affected farmers.
Ladylyn Ducusin, president of Puso (Progress, Unity and Socialization)
Credit Cooperative, composed mostly of farmers’ wives, said that among the
projects they provided to their farmers were designed to help those affected
by crop failures.
“In San Emilio, we are handing over cattle and in Banayoyo and
Burgos, we are distributing goats. In Candon City, we are already in Round 2
of that after we gave 200 goats to 100 recipients. The recipients are now
giving back the kids of these goats. And in Round 2, we are giving one goat to
one recipient,” she said.
Ducusin also said that they are giving training for salting and curing fish
to the coastal town of Santa while they are training housewives in Suyo and
Sigay on ways to ferment and pickle upland vegetables.
When Puso started in October 2019, they had 50 members per
municipality, but now there are even 500 members in one town, Ducusin said.
Provincial officials were also asked to intercede for and on behalf of
tobacco farmers who had availed of production loans from private tobacco
companies for the latter to condone a part of their loans.
Former Rep. Eric D. Singson, who is now running as Candon City
mayor, said that the tobacco farmers needed their soft loans
Ilocos Sur Board Member Mildred Elaydo at the Candon City Hall said
that her resolution appealing to the NTA, United Leaf Philippines Inc., and
other lending institutions to grant a moratorium on the soft loans of the
affected tobacco farmers was unanimously approved by the Sangguniang
Panlalawigan last February 15.
The NTA implemented the restructuring of the production assistance given to
the affected farmers, in addition to the livelihood assistance given to more
than 4,000 affected farmers through the Gulayan at Manukan sa Barangay
project.
“In addition, we plan to release an emergency cash assistance to the
affected farmers, with the approval of the NTA Governing Board,” NTA
Administrator Robert Victor Seares Jr. said.
Going beyond, Meehan had a consultation with NTA and private
companies to prevent another “lost season” for tobacco growers.
She said that they came out with the following precautionary and
remedial measures:
*Cultural management practices of all tobacco types
*Package of Technology (POT) through the use of flood-resistant and
high-yielding varieties
*More efficient tillage operations like plowing at a depth of eight to ten inches
instead of the usual practice of six inches depth and the adoption of the
ridge-type planting instead of the furrow method and the
*Construction of canals to drain excess water during heavy rains
“I really cried when I saw my fields,” said Francisca Raquepo.
But then I remembered this happened to us about 12 years ago," she added.
"And we persevered and the next year we earned enough to expand our farm," Raquepo said.

BEST AGRICULTURE TELEVISION PROGRAM OR SEGMENT
“STAND FOR TRUTH'S ELECTION SERIES, IN REVIEW: BAKIT WALA PA RING PAG-USAD SA BUHAY NG MARAMING MAGSASAKA SA PILIPINAS?"
AMIELLE ALEXANDRA
GARCIA ORDOÑEZ
GMA NEWS AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS DIGITALS
This segment is part of Stand For Truth’s “IN REVIEW” election series that discusses issues and challenges faced by the agriculture sector before and during the pandemic. Using case studies and interviews with experts, it aims to inform the public of the current status of the country’s agriculture industry.
FULL STORY
2021 Best TV PROGRAM OR SEGMENT
STAND FOR TRUTH
STORY: ELECTION SERIES (AGRICULTURE SECTOR)

ENGLISH

JOSE VIDAL (MAGSASAKA): The salary of a rice farmer is not enough to provide for a family. It’s really hard!


TRINIDAD DOMINGO (MAGSASAKA): Some would say that they are not eating enough.

I don’t see any progress to the farmers’ lives.


GEMMA TABIAN (MAGSASAKA): Farmers are forgotten heroes of the Philippines.

The farmers are experiencing the hardest kind of life.


THIS PANDEMIC, THE LIVELIHOOD IS NOT GUARANTEED…

THAT’S WHY STARVATION CAN’T BE AVOIDED.

AND EVEN THE SECTOR THAT FEEDS THE COUNTRY, CAN THEY STILL EAT?

IN THIS ELECTION SERIES OF STAND FOR TRUTH…

LET’S FIGURE OUT, WHY IS THERE STILL NO PROGRESS WITH THE LIVES OF

SOME FARMERS IN THE PHILIPPINES?

TEASER SOTS ONLY

ASIDE FROM THE DECREASING FARM LANDS, THERE IS ALSO A DECREASING

NUMBER OF FARMERS.


A FEW GROUP OF FARMERS PROTESTED IN FRONT OF THE DEPARTMENT OF

AGRICULTURE.


HOPEFULLY THE GOVERNMENT WOULD HELP US.


IF IT’S HARD TO BE A FARMER BEFORE, IT’S EVEN HARDER NOW DURING THE

PANDEMIC.

THAT’S THE CHALLENGE FOR TATAY JOSE VIDAL OF OCCIDENTAL MINDORO.

HE HAS BEEN FARMING RICE, VEGETABLES & FRUITS FOR 25 YEARS NOW.

JOSE VIDAL (MAGSASAKA): Rice farming would take too much time before harvesting

again. During the in between season, we could have been working side jobs. But since it is

pandemic, we have to stay inside the house.


ACCORDING TO NANAY TRINIDAD OF NUEVA ECIJA, THE RICE GRANARY OF THE

COUNTRY…

TRINIDAD DOMINGO (MAGSASAKA): When it rains, the price of the unmilled rice would

decrease. For example, this season it’s Php 15.00 per kilo. When it rains, Php 12.00 is the

most expensive. The farmer’s investment per kilo of unmilled rice is more than Php 12.00 .

Where’s the earning? None!


DESPITE THEIR EFFORTS, THE FARMERS REMAIN AS THE POOREST SECTOR IN

THE PHILIPPINES BASED ON THE LATEST POVERTY INCIDENCE REPORT OF THE

PHILIPPINE STATISTICS AUTHORITY.

BEFORE THE PANDEMIC HITS, THE DAILY AVERAGE BASIC PAY OF AN

AGRICULTURAL WORKER IN THE PHILIPPINES IS PHP 247.81.

THAT’S WHY IT IS NOT SURPRISING THAT THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE WHO WANT

TO PLANT IN THE COUNTRY IS ALSO DECREASING INCLUDING THE RICE

FARMERS.

FROM 2.6 MILLION RICE FARMERS ON 2010, THE NUMBER DECREASES TO 2.2

MILLION LAST 2015.

AND IT SEEMS THAT THE FARMERS LEFT WERE ALL AGED.

TATAY JOSE REACHED THE AGE OF 59 WHILE NANAY TRINIDAD REACHED THE

AGE OF 69.

ACCORDING TO THE PHILIPPINE STATISTICS AUHORITY, THE AVERAGE AGE OF A

FARMER IS 55 YEARS OLD.

JOSE VIDAL (MAGSASAKA): Some of our farmers would go to Manila for other

opportunities like for example, there they can sell and earn. Compared to the farm, there’s

no earnings.

GEMMA TABIAN (MAGSASAKA): Honestly, our children won’t choose to farm because

they witnessed how hard our lives turned out.


ARE THERE ENOUGH AGING FARMERS THAT CAN PROVIDE FOOD FOR MORE

THAN 100 MILLION FILIPINOS?


AGUSTIN ARCENAS (ECONOMIST): So what we’ll we do with the rice farmers if we drive

them out of rice farming? That will cause instability that has impact to the economy. The

real impact will be more of food security. It may contribute to the increase of food price. For

example if we would one hundred percent depend on imports, then war took place from

other countries, then that would place us on an unstable ground.

THE MORE THEIR EARNINGS DECREASES, THEIR NUMBER AND FARM LANDS

ALSO DECREASES.

GEMMA TABIAN (MAGSASAKA): Even before we receive our earnings, we already

loaned it with interest. When the harvest season approaches, we would loan again. We

work in able to pay for the loan and a lot of times, we are short.


JOSE VIDAL (MAGSASAKA): The reason why farmers sell their farm lands is because

they didn’t receive their return of investment and at the same time, they are full of debt.

ACCORDING TO THE PHILIPPINE STATISTICS AUTHORITY CENSUS OF

AGRICULTURE & FISHERIES’ DATA, ON 1991, THERE ARE MORE THAN 4 MILLION

HECTARES OF FARM LANDS IN THE COUNTRY.

IT SHRINKS TO 1.9 MILLION HECTARES ON 2012.

ASEC. NOEL REYES (SPOKESPERSON, DA): We have to implement the rules for land

conversion. For us, Department of Agriculture, irrigated lands are non-negotiable. The

lands with irrigation systems must not be converted.

EARWIN BELEN (AGRICULTURIST):
Because of land conversion, our areas for production decreases. At the same time, our

output also decreases. But of course, we are also considering the balance. How can we

give attention to the agriculture sector and at the same time, how can we provide for the

needs of the people? According to Economics, we have scarce resources. And everything

is competing for these resources including agriculture and other uses for the land.

PROF. AGUSTIN ARCENAS (ECONOMIST):

And the solution is to make a way for the remaining farmers to be very productive by

providing them with machines & providing them all the necessary things to increase their

productivity. So if their productivity increases, they don’t need too much land to produce

the same amount of food.

IN AGRICULTURE, TO SPEED-UP THE PRODUCTION AND EARNINGS OF EACH

FARMER, MECHANIZATION IS REALLY IMPORTANT.

BUT IN THE PHILIPPINES, THE MECHANIZATION LEVEL IS LOWER COMPARED TO

THE NEARBY COUNTRIES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA.

PROF. AGUSTIN ARCENAS (ECONOMIST):


The disadvantage of having a lower level of mechanization is that the production cost is

high. If our farmers would harvest manually while the other countries are advanced; I even

saw a self-harvesting machine from other countries. Their productivity is high compared to

the manual labor.

TO PLANT IS NOT EASY. EVERY SEED BEING PLANTED TAKES EFFORT TO

HARVEST.

TRINIDAD DOMINGO (MAGSASAKA): The land preparation per hectare would cost Php

7,000.00. Then, we have to plow it twice. To crush it and cultivate it thrice. It already cost

Php 21,000.00. The seed costs Php 30,000.00. From there, the sum total is already Php

51,000.00. Then we also have to pay for the labor of the farmers per hectare which costs

Php 7,000.00. The investment to this costs more than Php 70,000.00 already. Then after

planting, we have to use fertilizers to kill the excess grass and snails. The snails would

usually destroy the unmilled rice. All in all, the investment for farming would cost almost

Php 100,000.00 before the harvest season.

ACCORDING TO THE PHILIPPINE RICE RESEARCH INSTITUTE’S DATA…

THE PRODUCTION COST OF THE PHILIPPINES IS HIGHER COMPARED TO

THAILAND AND VIETNAM.

ASEC. NOEL REYES (SPOKESPERSON, DA): That is actually what we want to change.

The 10 Billion pesos worth of tariff being collected from the imported rice will be given to

farm mechanization that is worth 5 Billion pesos every year. To mechanize our rice

industry. There’s also a regular program for mechanization. It is part of the 4 major pillars

of 1DA reform agenda; Farm consolidation & clustering, need to mechanize, need to

modernize and then industrialize.

ACCORDING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE’S DATA, FROM THE PAST 2

YEARS, THEY ALREADY PROCURED MORE THAN 15,000 UNITS OF FARM

MACHINERIES AND EQUIPMENT. MORE THAN 600,000 FARMERS ARE ALREADY

BENEFITING FROM IT.

THIS YEAR, THEY ARE PLANNING TO PROCURE MORE THAN 5,000 UNITS OF FARM

MACHINERIES AND EQUIPMENT THAT CAN BE USED BY MORE THAN 200,000

FARMERS.


IN 2015, THERE WERE OVER 1.7 MILLION HECTARES OF IRRIGATED AREA

NATIONWIDE. THIS IS 57% OF THE TOTAL IRRIGABLE LAND. THE AVERAGE

GROWTH RATE IS 2.46% SINCE 2011.

FROM THE LAST RECORD, THE TOTAL LAND AREA WITH EFFICIENT IRRIGATION

FACILITIES IS OVER 2 MILLION HECTARES OR 64% OF THE TOTAL IRRIGABLE

LAND IN THE PHILIPPINES.

THERE IS STILL OVER 1 MILLION HECTARES WITHOUT IRRIGATION FACILITIES.

FOR EXAMPLE IN NUEVA ECIJA, SOME OF THE REASONS ARE…

LACK OF FUNDS…

OLD CANAL FACILITIES…

AND THERE ARE SOME LOT OWNERS WHO ARE NOT WILLING TO CONVERT THEIR

LANDS INTO FARM LANDS.

ASEC. NOEL REYES (SPOKESPERSON, DA): There’s a lot more with no irrigation. If

that’s a rice area, it should have. But it depends on the location. Kindly inform the regional

office or provincial offices and make a proposal through their municipal agricultural officer

or group of farmers association. Building a small water impounding projects or small

reservoir is possible.


ON FEBRUARY 14, 2019, THE REPUBLIC ACT 11203 OR RICE TARIFFICATION LAW

WAS APPROVED IN THE COUNTRY.

TRINIDAD DOMINGO (MAGSASAKA): They said that the price of milled rice will decrease

while the price of unmilled rice will increase. But in this case, it’s the other way around.

Even the price of the milled rice won’t decrease. The former price of an NFA rice which is

Php 27.00 per kilo is now gone. Now, the price is more than Php 30.00 to Php 50.00. If you

sold unmilled rice for Php 20.00 per kilo, then the price of the milled rice should be twice.

The price of rice should be Php 40.00 only. But now, Php 40.00 is the cheapest. Where is

the promise for a cheaper milled rice price?

RAUL MONTEMAYOR (MAGSASAKA):

The imported products came in with a very low price that negatively affects the price of the

local products. We are not against imported products, we are against too much imported

products coming in the country that causes the local products’ price to decrease.


ACCORDING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, THE RTL IS ACTUALLY A

SOLUTION TO THE FARMERS’ PROBLEMS.

ASEC. NOEL REYES (SPOKESPERSON, DA): To increase the productivity and income of

the farmers. 5 Billion pesos for farm mechanization, these are free for group of farmers. 3

Billion pesos for inbred seeds, that is also free for RCEF areas. 1 Billion pesos for credit

through landbank & DBP. 1 Billion pesos for training and extension c/o TESDA &

agricultural training institutes. The excess will be used as financial assistance for rice

farmers.


ACCORDING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE’S DATA…

SINCE THE APPROVAL OF RTL UP UNTIL TODAY, THE 10 BILLION PESOS SUBSIDY

PER YEAR THROUGH RCEF FUND WAS ALREADY PROVIDED BASED ON THEIR

PROMISES.

WITHIN THE SPAN OF 3 YEARS SINCE THE APPROVAL OF RTL UP UNTIL AUGUST

2021, THE 30 BILLION PESOS WAS ALREADY GIVEN.

57 PROVINCES WITH 1.89 MILLION RICE FARMERS ARE BENEFITING FROM IT.


IN ORDER TO MEET THE NEED OF THE FARMERS, SOME OF THEM WOULD SEEK

SIDE JOBS.

JOSE VIDAL (MAGSASAKA): What we usually do to earn more and to lessen the

expenses for food consumption is that we plant other crops, vegetables, we do poultry like

chicken and cow.

BUT ASIDE FROM PLANTING… THEY ALSO NEED HELP WHEN IT COMES TO

HARVESTING.

RAUL MONTEMAYOR (MAGSASAKA): The biggest problem and concern of farmers is
the price of their products. Give us the assurance that when we harvest, we will get the

price that we deserve and not a loss for our part. Then we will handle it well. That is the big

message coming out of the mouths of our farmers today.

EARWIN BELEN (AGRICULTURIST): One of the reasons why farmers were stuck or their

income isn’t enough is because they are always at the production side. There are so many

middle men, they contribute to the product’s value and they are the ones who receive the

higher pay.

ASEC. NOEL REYES (SPOKESPERSON, DA): We really need the farm to market roads

for our modernization, industrialization that is a pillar of the DA. We have a budget for the

farm to market roads.



WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR WILL BE FORSAKEN?

EARWIN BELEN (AGRICULTURIST): There would be no food left for us. Most of our food

is coming from agriculture. If we won’t focus on this, there’s a threat of hunger in the future.

DESPITE ALL THE CHALLENGES INCLUDING THE PANDEMIC, THE PHILIPPINE

FARMERS REMAINED RESILIENT ACCORDING TO THE STUDY OF AUSTRALIAN

CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH.

86% OF THE FARMERS IN THE COUNTRY WOULD CONTINUOUSLY PLANT DESPITE

THE THREAT OF THE VIRUS.

THIS COMING ELECTION… THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR WHO FEEDS MORE THAN

100 MILLION FILIPINOS DESIRES THE FOLLOWING…

JOSE VIDAL (MAGSASAKA): The government should continue with their help for the

farmers. If the farmers would quit, there will be a threat of starvation. Fix the irrigation

system.

TRINIDAD DOMINGO (MAGSASAKA): My wish for the small-time farmers is for them to

be debt-free and that they will no longer need to loan.

RAUL MONTEMAYOR (MAGSASAKA): We should give hope to our farmers. And also for

them to eventually have a comfortable lives with enough essential things and for them to

be able to send their children to school.

TO SUPPORT THEM FROM PLANTING OF SEEDS UP TO THE SELLING OF THEIR

HARVEST…

SO THAT THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR OF THE PHILIPPINES MAY OVERCOME

POVERTY & HUNGER.


END


BEST AGRICULTURE RADIO PROGRAM OR SEGMENT
"ORGANIC FERTILIZER"
NORA SAGAYO
DZWT 540 KHZ RADYO TOTOO
This program covers the definition, terminologies, composition, composting, and application of organic fertilizers. It also shares how Benguet State University extended its services in relation to organic fertilizers.
FULL STORY
2021 Best Radio
BSU-on-the-Air
DZWT 540 Khz
TITLE: CONCEPT, TYPES AND DEFINITION OF ORGANIC FERTILIZER (Part 1)
DATE OF AIRING: May 6, 2021
INTERVIEWEE: Prof. Alexander W. Fagyan
OBJECTIVE: To promote organic fertilizer
ANCHOR: Good morning to all of us, today is Tuesday and I hope that we are all doing great.

We are blessed us today because we will be interviewing our expert Prof. Alexander Fagyan to discuss with us about Organic Fertilizer. Aside from that, other topics related to organic fertilizer, like the different types of soil, organic amendments and the process of application will be shared.
Now, we have here Prof. Alexander Fagyan, good morning sir, and welcome to our
program BSU-on-the-Air.
PROF. FAGYAN: Good morning too madam Nora and to all the listeners of our
program BSU-on-the-Air, good morning!
ANCHOR: Alright, in fact, this is not the first time for us to interview Sir in a program and for this episode, let us focus on organic fertilizer, the different types and its benefits. And if you have questions, you can send it through our cellphone ng bayan so we can directly ask it to our expert.
So here are the topics requested by our listeners based on the text messages that we have received. Most of them were asking about this organic, how to do it and how to apply it.
However, we know that there are also different terminologies that you are using which we need to learn in this topic.
PROF. FAGYAN: So good morning to all of us! Before I will discuss the process on how to
make a fertilizer, let’s just look at the terminologies on organic fertilizer.
First, organic fertilizer is a kind of organic soil amendment. This organic soil amendment are materials that we mix with the soil to improve its water capacity and provide nutrition to the soil.
It can provide nutrition like phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium , calcium, magnesium, sulfur and micro-nutrients like boron, iron, molybdenum, copper and zinc. We also have what we called pure and fortified organic fertilizer.
Pure organic fertilizer is a pure biodegradable from live materials such as grasses, animal manure that can be decompose in order to produce this classification of an organic fertilizer.
On the other hand, fortified fertilizer has an additives of ammonium. This is enhanced with other elements or nutrition added. Just like for example the milk that we are drinking, we have what we called fortified milk which means that there are other nutrition added for the baby.
But for the plants, the additives that I am pertaining to are either microbes that’s why we have bio fertilizer and others is ammonium. If you can see, there are odorous organic fertilizer. Those are the additives that we are saying that’s why we call it fortified.
So those are the types of organic fertilizer, the pure and fortified which are soil amendment.
Second is compost or soil compost. This is another organic soil amendment. If we say compost, this is biodegradable plants, woods that we can compost to make a fertilizer. It is also called soil conditioner. However, the differences of this from the organic fertilizer, is the fertilizer grade.
Fertilizer grade pertains to the total of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content of the fertilizer. For the BSU Growers Compost, it has 1.79% nitrogen, 4.88% phosphorus and 3.11% potassium. All in total is nine. If the computed fertilizer grade ranges from 5%-10%, it can be considered as organic fertilizer. However, if it’s 2.5%-5%, this is compost or soil conditioner.
That is the difference of the organic soil amendment or organic fertilizer and compost or soil conditioner.
Third organic soil amendment is the organic plant supplement. This is what we called organic plant extracts or fermented juice used in watering the plant. Usually, the total percentage of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus content is less than 2.5%. Hence, it can considered as organic plant supplement.
Now, those are the classification of fertilizer, organic fertilizer, compost or soil conditioner and organic plant supplement.
In additional, we have that what we called fish amino acid, which is a fermented fish. Those are from fishes like the grills that undergo fermentation.
Since we know now the classification, let us discuss how to make fertilizer or compost or soil conditioner.
First, consider the materials available in your surroundings. Example in Nueva Viscaya, there was this analysis of organic plant materials or substrates that they are composting. One of which is the fern. This is what we called alam-am in our dialect. It is the wild fern in the forest.
Another is the gumamela, pukpukot in our local dialect, the calliandra and ipil. This calliandra, ipil-ipil, gumamela, fern and camote tops are good source of nitrogen. Another also is wild sunflower with nitrogen and phosphorus.
Those are the materials for composting that we can easily find in our surrounding. Also, sawdust is good but it has to be the sawdust from lowlands tress because pine tree is different from this.
Another is coco coir dust. This can be derived from the dried coconut skin. It will be grounded and turned into coco coir dust.
We also have animal manure like cow manure, horse manure, swine manure and chicken manure.
You can use these. You can either use those materials in making fertilizer or compost.
ANCHOR: Alright, so sir was able to specify all the materials as based on their analysis on the different grasses or plants that we can use in composting. Some of those mentioned plants include gumamela, alam-am, puket-puket, calliandra, ipil-ipil, camote tops, marapait, animal
manure, coco coir dust, saw dust, and grasses.
Now, we will continue tomorrow how are we going to process these materials into fertilizer and how are we going to apply this.
So for now, we have learned from this discussion of sir. So we thank you for the simplified discussion about organic fertilizer.
PROF. FAGYAN: Thank you too for giving mi this chance to discuss with you about organic fertilizer or soil amendments.
ANCHOR: Ok, so let’s stop at this point for the meantime and thank you for the time. Hoping that you will continue to support our program. Once again, I hope for God’s guidance to everyone of us in all that we do. Thank you from the Office of Extension Services, headed by Dr. Constantino Sudaypan and our staff Miss Jhelian Cabintos, here is your anchor Nora Sagayo, allangugan dagiti eksperto iti Benguet State University!

BSU-on-the-Air
DZWT 540 Khz
TITLE: MATERIALS NEEDED ORGANIC FERTILIZER (Part 2)
DATE OF AIRING: May 7, 2021
ANCHOR: NORA C. SAGAYO
INTERVIEWEE: Prof. Alexander W. Fagyan
OBJECTIVE: To promote organic fertilizer
ANCHOR: Good morning good morning to all our listeners. We are blessed still this day since we have here Prof. Alexander Fagyan from the Department of Soil Science under the College of Agriculture, Benguet State University to continue our discussion on how to make an organic fertilizer.
Just a recap of the previous discussion. Sir enumerated the different materials available in our surrounding in order to save money. He mentioned the procedures or steps that we need to follow in making organic soil amendments.
Some of these include shredder or bolo to be used in chopping the plant materials into small pieces. There is a reason why we need to do this and those ingredients. Now we have here Sir Alexander Fagyan, to answer all these questions. So good morning sir, welcome to our program 

BSU-on the-Air.
PROF. FAGYAN: Thank you Nora and Jhelian, goodmorning to all our listeners.
ANCHOR: Alright, since you were able to discuss already about the process in making organic soil amendments through the materials you mentioned, and one is black plastic or sack use to cover the pile of the substrate like sawdust, grasses, then animal manure and followed by alam-am or sunflower or azola. We repeat the process until we reach 1 meter height.
You also said, we need to water and add Trichoderma to speed the composting process. Now, why is it necessary to be particular with the black plastic?
PROF. FAGYAN: Yes because this is hotter and it will not expose unlike the transparent plastic wherein the heat is coming out. It cannot trap the heat inside. The black plastic can trap the heat inside and is good for the worms.
ANCHOR: Alright, so I hope that is clear for us why we need to get the black one and not other colors. Now, since we already know the procedure, let us know sir also about the location. Are there requirements for the area where we can have our compost? Also, what is the next step to do after site selction? And in case we already have, how long will it take for a compost pile to decompost and can be used? And Do we need to keep on monitoring?
PROF. FAGYAN: That’s are great questions. Actually, yes, that should be the first thing to do, the site selection. It is where we will do the organic fertilizer. We need to consider the area that is not flooded. In our case here in La Trinidad since it is flooded, we can find an open field. We can make a canal to avoid flooding the pile.
So that is one of the requirements. Consider the availability of water. This is needed because we need to water the compost pile after one week before we reverse the substrate. Once you observe that it lacks water, you need to water it. In summary, in site selection, it shouldn’t be prone to flood and with available water.
If you are practicing organic farming, your compost should not be above your vegetable garden.
It should be the other way around. This is because it has an influence, especially if there might be non-beneficial organisms found in the compost pile. Those are the requirements. And make sure that the materials are available because if we don’t have those like here in La Trinidad, we will spend more. We, BSU growers compost substrates from coco dust that we are buying. So we are purchasing but it's only good for us that we have farm supplies but high prices.
Even chicken manure, we have that’s why we plan on getting this chicken manure from the BSU poultry to save capital since it is costly in the market like in Shilan or Tomay.
So let us consider those, especially the materials needed. But for those who are already
practicing organic farming, meaning to say you have your farm plan. You have considered the location for composting, area for organic vegetable production, area for vermicomposting if you plan to have, the shed, and room for all the tools.
This is because if you want to be certified as organic since it is an organic farm and your product is organic vegetables, you will be certified.
Maybe you have heard already about this certification. This is costly. We do have a program of the government specifically the Department of Agriculture wherein they will handle first-year certification, but for the rest, it will be shouldered by the farmer.
Certification cost 30,000 for an organic farm. They will certify your product. One requirement here is the composting area. You must have a composting area if you are producing organic products.
They will ask about your fertilizer, and if what you have used is the fortified fertilizer which is odorous, and with a high percentage of phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, and more than 10, then it means to say that you have used organic fertilizer but fortified since it is enhanced, there is an added additive. In organic farming, there should be no additives. Microbes can help speed the decomposition of materials. That's why we need to know those kinds of fertilizers.
ANCHOR: So now, let’s look at the ideal size of the composting area, do we have standard measurement for this?
PROF. FAGYAN: It depends on your preference. I just said one sack but for as long as the ratio is 1:1:1. But if there are bulk substrates, like coco dust, grasses, and five sacks of grasses then you should also have five sacks of animal manure. So that’s how we apply the ratio 1:1:1. Hence, it always depends on the volume of materials you have.
But usually, for open fields, there’s no roof for this composting shed, you can’t start with two meters by one meter in length. You need to maximize but still depend on your available materials if you have many.
If you have one sack of grass substrate, you need to have one sack also of chicken manure and one sack of azola or sunflower. But if there are lots, then increase the ratio.
ANCHOR: It’s clear sir, another question sir, how long will it take also to decompose? Will, it depends on the materials used?
For example, we started today our composting, and we water it every after week, how many days to wait before we can already use it?
PROF. FAGYAN: Okay, here at BSU, we are using coco coir dust, chicken manure, and
sunflower. This takes five months because we use 25 sacks of coco coir dust, for the first layer, 25 sacks of chicken manure then another is the sunflower. We are also using Trichoderma before we cover it with black plastic. We water this after a week then reverse the compost pile and then again every after week. Once it lacks water then we do it. That is why water is very important in the area.
ANCHOR: So five months, is it possible sir that we do have those takes more than five
months?
PROF. FAGYAN: Yes, there is because it depends on the material, for example, sawdust, takes time because it’s not easy to decompose, if it decomposes at least it is carbonaceous material, for the chicken manure, once decomposes, it hydrolyzable carbon with 90% that’s why it decreases just like the sunflower. Even one sack of sunflower, cannot be contained in a sack because its water when decomposed. Hence it depends on the materials.
ANCHOR: So there, is the whole discussion with Prof. Alexander Fagyan. From the Office of Extension Services headed by Dr. Constantino T.Sudaypan and Ms. Jhelian Cabintos, here is your anchor Nora Sagayo, Allangugan dagiti eksperto iti Benguet State University!

BSU-on-the-Air
DZWT 540 Khz
TITLE: APPLICATION OF ORGANIC FERTILIZER (Part 3)
DATE OF AIRING: May 10, 2021
ANCHOR: NORA C. SAGAYO
INTERVIEWEE: PROF. ALEXANDER W. FAGYAN
OBJECTIVE: To promote organic fertilizer
ANCHOR: So good morning good morning, have a good morning again to all our listeners who are always supporting our program BSU-on-the-Air. Again, we are blessed today since we will still be having sir Alexander Fagyan from the Department of Soil Science under the College of Agriculture to continue the last part of our topic organic soil fertilizer. We have here now, Prof. Alexander Fagyan.
Good morning and welcome sir!
PROF. FAGYAN: Good morning too! I am recalling your one question on how to know if the compost is already ripe.
We can detect that by checking if its odor if it is already odorless. That is one of the criteria. If it is still odorous, you need to let it decomposes. Another is the color, it should be brown. It is a sign if it is ripe. However, if you want to sell your compost, you need to have an analysis of that.
You tried to commercialize like BSU, that it has its label already hence it is being
commercialized.
The only thing is, we can only produce 300 sacks which we are requesting in one cycle.
We are using 300 sacks of chicken manure and coco coir dust. This is why we can produce twice a year. So that is how to compost production is. If you like to market that, you need to package
them if it is analyzed so that you can already establish a good kind of fertilizer.
ANCHOR: So sir, this analysis that you are saying wherein the content of the compost will be checked and analyzed if it’s proper, what can BSU do to help the farmers on this?
PRF. FAGYAN: For BSU, we can only provide technical assistance. BSU is not providing
financial assistance, hence we suggest that this could materialize by having a Soil, Water, and Plant Analysis Laboratory here. However, if this will not materialize until next year, we do have this BSWM or Bureau of Soils and Water Management in Pacdal. You can pack a sample of your compost and send it to your PLGU or Municipal Agriculturist Office for them to bring the sample to that agency.
They will analyze your fertilizer, by checking the nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, pH, and others. That is if you want to commercialize your fertilizer. But if it's only for personal consumption, it's okay. You don’t need to submit it for analysis for as long as you are applying it in your organic vegetable production.
ANCHOR: So there, it’s good that we came to know the purpose that it is for
commercialization. Now, if you are aiming for this, you may approach or visit that office
mentioned by sir who is conducting an analysis of fertilizer.
Now, since we already know how to process and produce organic fertilizer, then let’s move on and learn the application of this.
Is this just through spraying or just mixing with the soil? and what are those considerations and procedures that we can follow to make it more effective in applying this organic fertilizer?
PROF. FAGYAN: Those are good questions, on how to apply this compost or organic fertilizer.
There was this study that we can apply two times the recommended nitrogen requirement of inorganic fertilizer. This means that whatever is the requirement of our crop since we have different crops with different requirements.
For example, lettuce or cabbage needs nitrogen at 240kg/hectare. So per hectare is pure
nitrogen, even broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, or head cabbage or those kinds of
cabbage. That is the requirement of crucifers as to nitrogen. That’s it, we will base it on the computed need of the crops that we plant and produce on our farm. Another example, if is beans, which also require a different amount which is only 50 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare.
For potatoes, it requires 140 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare. Pepper is 100 kilograms of nitrogen per hectare. Although, plants also require phosphorus we don’t need to compute that since it also contains a big amount of potassium hence, that can still be provided by organic fertilizer. Still, those are a requirement by plants in terms of phosphorous and potassium.
However, we only compute the nitrogen to know how many sacks or kilograms do we need in an area like a five square meter by five square meter plot or by ten.
There was this statement that farmers apply eight kilograms per square meter. That is a big amount already. If you weigh that, it is equivalent already to one can because one can is equivalent to eight kilograms of fertilizer, and put in one square meter. But t studies in BSU under the greenhouse, four kilograms to six kilograms is good per square meter. Four kilograms of fertilizer per square meter.
That’s what you can do, but if you are just starting like you are on the transition for example from conventional farming, you need six kilograms per square meter of fertilizer to rejuvenate or renew the fertilizer and abilities of the soil. This is because the soil that is used for conventional is poor. After all, we were applying in-organic fertilizer. Hence, conventional farming has acidic soil.
And the nutrition, they are only putting nitrogen phosphorus, potassium, and no more
micro-nutrient element yet we need micro-nutrient element, it is the salt of the soil, just like us we have salt and food. For us humans, rice is our main carbohydrate but for plants, it is nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Those are the biggest amount of nutrients that they need.
It is where we can base for the meantime because even though I am talking here about
computation but you cannot see it, you can only listen to it. Therefore, if you want to compute so that BSU can analyze your compost, then we can do it next time so you know how many are you going to apply. That’s it, for the meantime, you can apply only about 4-6 kilos per square meter of fertilizer or compost. Now, do you still have questions?
ANCHOR: You’ve mentioned already the bases in the application that it depends on the kind of crops and the size and also when you are transitioning from conventional farming to non-conventional farming.
He also mentioned the things that we need to consider. Now, how are we going to apply the compost we made for our crops?
Are we going to just spread in the area? Distribute or better that we are the ones to do it so that it will be more effective?
PROF. FAGYAN: Ah ah that’s good questions madam Nora, well actually, the application
should be now then after application incorporate it into the soil then water it. Only after one week before you can plant it.
ANCHOR: And we know that the practice of others really just spread out in the areas.
PROF. FAGYAN: Still fine but what I’ve said a while ago is better especially if the plant is from the seedling tray. But if those are found in a seedbed that you will just pull out, of course, it will still establish, like the roots for absorption or the roots getting nutrition from the compost.
Though, when you plant, you applied it first before your plant. So about 15 days, that will decompose and increase the organic matter content of the soil. So if that organic matter content increases, it will be degraded again, for microbes, that is their work to release organic nitrogen into inorganic form because that can be eaten by plants. So the organic matter content will decrease for about 30 days, then 40 days, then 75 days. There is a decrease in the organic matter  content of the soil.
So that’s what we need to learn because every after 30-45 days, the organic matter content of the soil decreases. Hence, for example, the plant is already three months, and if cabbage or potato, the needs nutrition for fruiting, and development. Now, where will they get them? They also need to eat, so that’s what we are learning. Maybe what we can do now is to split the application.
Before planting, put 3 kilos to 6 kilos per square meter. That 3 kilos per square meter, after 20 days from planting before you apply again. This means that you need to do side-dressing so that there will be a continuous supply of nutrition for the plant.
That is the principle why we need to split. Again, that is because it was found out in a study that yes we put the fertilizer, it will decompose and become soil organic matter content.
The organic material is compost, which is the kind of organic material that you will put. That will be decomposed and turn into soil organic matter, and then the soil organic matter, which contains nutrition which is the microbes of the soil that will eat, and release in-organic form that can be eaten by the plants.
I have said a while ago that what we need to do is to degrade the soil organic matter so that it will release nutrition for up to 30-40 days, and soil organic matter decreases hence, we need to do side dress. That is also the principle why we need to do side dressing and doing a split application. There are also others, if you like, we have what we called organic plant supplement
if we can use fertigate. This means that the extracted ferment plant juice or fermented fruit juice will be used with water and used to water the soil and be absorbed by the plants.
So that is now the application of organic agriculture or organic vegetable production. Hopefully, you have learned something, and if in case you have questions, just text the BSU extension office.
ANCHOR: Alright, that is another new learning. We were refreshed on those other parts and so many things that we learned.
Now if we look back, he already enumerated all from the location site, things to be considered until application. Also the basis in the application until the different strategies and techniques that we can employ or do to avoid degradation.
Hopefully, it is clear for all of us and we can now apply it in our garden. Now thank you sir for that comprehensive discussion on organic fertilizer.
PROF. FAGYAN: Thank you also apo Nora and apo Jhelian and this BSU-on-the-Air
program.
ANCHOR: So there is Professor Alexander Fagyan, from the Department of Soil Science and we thank you from the full force of the Office of Extension Services headed by n Dr. Constantino Sudaypan and our staff Miss Jhelian Cabintos, here is Nora Sagayo, allangugan dagiti eksperto iti Benguet State University!
BEST AGRICULTURE NEWS STORY NATIONAL
“PH IMPORTING 200,000 TONS OF SUGAR TO STABILIZE PRICES”
JORDEENE SHEEX B. LAGARE
PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER
The article discusses vital issues facing the sugar refineries association, such as low raw sugar production due to storms, the industry’s path to stability, and the need for importation to regulate prices.
FULL STORY
2021 NEWS STORY, NATIONAL
PH importing 200,000 tons of sugar to stabilize prices

After rice, meat products and fish, the Philippines will next import sugar to stabilize
domestic prices that have shot up despite stable local production.
The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said 200,000 metric tons of sugar would be
imported for crop year 2021-2022, according to new policy guidelines contained in its
Sugar Order No. 3, which was made public on Friday.
“SRA received instructions from the Department of Agriculture to temper the current
level of high local sugar prices that it considers at this time a sugar import program,” it
said to explain the move.
The SRA said 100,000 metric tons would be standard grade refined sugar while the
other 100,000 MT would be “bottlers’ grade” refined sugar used by the beverage
industry.
The total volume, however, is higher than what sugar producers have recommended.
Vicmico Planters Association president Aurelio Valderrama said his group
recommended only 50,000 MT a month, up to a maximum of 150,000. This was
supported by the Confederation of Sugar Producers Associations Inc. Negros and other
sugar producers, Vicmico said in a Viber message to the Inquirer.
Typhoon damage The SRA said that wholesale and retail prices of raw sugar and refined sugar have reached record highs after Typhoon “Odette” (international name: Rai) devastated many parts of the Philippines in December last year, including the sugar-producing regions of Negros, Panay and Eastern Visayas.
Sugarcane, sugar stocks in warehouses and facilities and equipment of sugar mills and
refineries in key sugar milling districts were damaged.
As a result, the wholesale price of raw sugar in the National Capital Region (NCR) is
now P2,000 per 50-kilogram bag (LKg) and refined sugar is P2,900 per Lkg, both
“historic highs,” the SRA said.
The retail price of raw sugar in certain markets has hit P48 a kilo while the retail price of
refined sugar ranges from P57 a kilo to P60 a kilo, higher than the suggested retail
prices for raw sugar and refined sugar.
The devastation caused by the storm lowered raw sugar production estimate for crop
year 2021 to 2022 to 2.072 million MT from 2.099 million MT.
The sugar refineries association also slashed its sugar output forecast to 16.748 million
LKg from its initial projection of 17.572 million LKg prior to Odette.
Projections lowered SRA Administrator Hermenegildo Serafica said projections were lowered to reflect the impact of the typhoon on the country’s sugarcane sector, which incurred losses amounting to P1.15 billion.
The production estimate took into account the damage incurred by three refineries and
sugar plantations in the Visayas, Serafica told the Inquirer in a text message.
He said that sugar mills and refineries had resumed production and “local production is
stable,” citing the SRA weekly sugar production report, which on Jan. 23, showed that
raw sugar production was up 4.4 percent while refined sugar production rose 46.4
percent compared to the same week last year.
SRA data showed that as of Jan. 23, raw sugar production reached 869,120 MT and
supply was 1.1 million MT against a demand of 715,888 MT. Refined sugar production
totaled 291,110.15 MT and supply was 523,265.95 MT with demand reaching
389,462.25 MT.
Sugar producers say their production costs are rising with the fuel prices going up. They
are appealing for a freeze in fertilizer price hikes.
New policy According to the SRA’s new policy guidelines, importation is “open and voluntary” to industrial users of refined sugar that are duly registered with the SRA as traders in good standing.
The SRA refers to industrial users as “confectionaries, biscuits, bread, candies, milk,
juice, and food and beverage manufacturers” using refined sugar in manufacturing their
products in the country and selling them in the domestic market.
An industrial user may apply to import up to 5,000 MT of standard refined sugar and up
to 10,000 MT of bottlers’ grade refined sugarThe SRA offices in Quezon City or in
Bacolod City will accept import applications from Feb. 7 to Feb. 11, and on Feb. 14.
Industrial users or international sugar traders are not allowed to transfer or sell any part
of their imports to other industrial users or other domestic or international sugar traders.
The SRA said that 25 percent of standard refined sugar imported by industrial users
should arrive no sooner than March 1 and the remaining 75 percent no sooner than May 1.

Written request
For importers of bottlers’ grade refined sugar, 75 percent of their shipment should come
in no sooner than March 1 and the remaining 25 percent no sooner than May 1.
Industrial users or international sugar traders participating in the sugar importation
would have to make a written request to the SRA Board to reclassify the “C” sugar (for
reserves) to “B” sugar (for domestic consumption), indicating the volume to be
reclassified and the address of the SRA-registered warehouse where the “C” sugar is
stored.
“Only after the reclassification to “B” sugar can the imported sugar be released to the
domestic market,” the SRA said.
The government resorts to importation of agricultural products as a last-ditch effort to
plug any expected supply shortfall or temper skyrocketing prices or both.
In 2018, the SRA allowed the importation of 250,000 MT of sugar to meet the projected
increase in demand due to low production at that time.
BEST AGRICULTURE NEWS STORY REGIONAL
"PALA'WAN TRIBES STRUGGLE THROUGH PINEAPPLE FARMING DURING COVID 19 PAMDEMIC"
RACHEL P. GANANCIAL
PALAWAN NEWS
This special report talks about the challenges brought about by the pandemic to the Pala’wan tribes, producers of the famous Bataraza pineapples.
FULL STORY
2021 News Story Regional
SPECIAL REPORT: Pala’wan tribes struggle through pineapple farming during
COVID-19 pandemic
November 29, 2021

Pala’wan tribes producing the locally famous pineapples from Bataraza are facing
income losses due to decreased demand this year as a consequence of the current
pandemic.
Based on the records of the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) of Bataraza, there are
237 indigenous peoples (IPs) dependent on farming pineapples in their town on 733
hectares (ha) of land as of 2020. The majority of farmers are from Barangay Bulalacao
with 122 IPs.
Peneng Mansari, 45, recalled that when she started venturing into pineapple farming in
Sitio Taludtod, Barangay Bulalacao in Bataraza, only a few were interested until their
number grew over time. Pineapple farming is the main livelihood that helped Peneng
and her husband raise their six children.
“Kaunti lang din ang nagtatanim niyan noon hanggang sa marami na ang nakasubok
niyan. Kasi kung walang pinya, wala rin maasahan na hanapbuhay. Anim na buwan
bago siya ma-harvest,” Peneng said.
Planting of pineapple, or “parangue,” in Palawan was only seasonal years ago, as it
could only fruit in May, or at the very least, in August.
Not until IP farmers started to use “kalburo”, or calcium carbide, to help the pineapple
bear fruits all year round. The peak season hits from June to July, and the harvest is
every five to six months.
“May nabibili na kasi na pabunga—‘yong kalburo. Parang bato siya, tubigan mo, ibuhos
mo sa pinya tapos hintayin mo ng isang buwan at kalahati, lalabas na ‘yong bunga niya.
Wala rin epekto (sa lasa), kung anong bunga, ‘yan din. Mas mabilis lang ang paghinog,”
she added.
Pala’wan farmers said that they are not using fertilizer on their plants and they practice
‘kaingin’ or upland farming in pineapple.

Pre-pandemic market for pineapples
Harvested pineapples are carried by a hired individual through a “kantuwangan”, or a
stick that can carry 24, 20, or 28 pieces balanced at both ends depending on sizes. The
farmers are hiring someone to carry down each kantuwangan for P100 to P150 per
person.
Peneng and other IP farmers used to earn a minimum of P500 to P600 per
kantuwangan. During harvest, a hired guy can bring at least 10 kantuwangan to the
buying station from a single farm. This helps them earn P8,000 per harvest.
“Malaking pasalamat na namin ‘yan—kapag bumibili kami ng bigas, may isda na. Ang
matira, ‘yon na lang ang pang-alkansya — kung walang pinya, walang trabaho. Tambay
ka lang sa bahay. Lalo na kung netibo at walang pinya, mahirap,” she said.
“Kung hindi dahil sa pinya, hindi makabahay ng maganda. Hindi ka makabili ng gamit.
Tama lang muna na kubo-kubo ang bahay noong wala pa ang pinya. Hindi ka makabili
ng maraming plato, kaldero. Pero ngayon may pinyahan, ‘yong nabibili mo ay nabibili na
rin ng mga kasama mo kasi parehas na kayong may pinyahan,” she said.

Top pineapple producing town
Municipal agriculturist Virginia Genilan said that through the “One Town, One Product”
program of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) years ago, the pineapple slowly
established the image of Bataraza as the top producing town in Palawan.
According to MAO, the town has an average annual production of 978,552 kilos. In
Bataraza, Brgy. Bulalacao has the highest number of IP farmers at 122, followed by
Tarusan with 62, Malihud with 33, Bonobono, and 10 in Culandanum.
It was first showcased in the Baragatan Festival of Palawan and eventually hit the
tourist market. In 2019, the Bataraza local government unit (LGU) launched the annual
pineapple festival.
The LGU also established a processing center to process the pineapple into various
value-added products that can compete in the commercial market. However, it is not
supplied outside of town due to the pandemic.

Impact of pandemic on IP farmers
Olivia Mansari, Peneng’s daughter-in-law, also exposed herself to the pineapple after
their marriage five years ago. She observed that in 2021, the market drastically
changed due to the decreasing demand experienced in absence of main consumers
such as tourists.
“Kapag meron kang pinya, kung sabay-sabay kayo nag-harvest ng kasama mo, wala na
magbili. May magbili pero P250 na lang o P200 isang kantuwang. Bigyan mo pa ‘yong
naghakot ilan na lang sa’yo? Tag-P100 kayo. Kapag may kasabay ka nagpabunga, may
kasabay ka rin mag-harvest,” Olivia said.
The price per kantuwangan slowly decreased from around P200 to P300, which only
gave them P1,000 in earnings.
“Naiintindihan din naman namin kaya kung anong sinabi nila, ganon na lang din ang
bentahan namin kaysa mabulok. Hindi naman lahat sa amin makabiyahe pa-Puerto,
walang kaalam-alam,” she said.
The decreased demand for pineapple also convinced middlemen to temporarily decline
buying from IPs, which left the latter with no other choice but to walk down from the
mountain and sell outside the town.
They went to the nearest town in Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, and had to pay P3 per
pineapple that they loaded into trucks. They can sell pineapples at P100 each and earn
at least P3,000, which is impossible to earn if they only depend on the trend of pricing
experienced this year.
Trying to earn more, some of them, like Olivia, are going to Puerto Princesa, which is
almost four to five hours away from Bataraza, just to sell pineapple.
“Sinubukan na namin kasi hindi na bumibili buyer namin dito, wala na rin kami
panggastos. Naglako na lang kami sa Brooke’s, naglakad kami—ilang linggo din ako
hindi nakakauwi. Nagpapadala lang sila ng pinya,” she said.
“Maraming nabulok, hindi na mabilang. Minsan ang maliliit, inaapakan na lang. Hindi
lang bente kantuwangan, kapag minsan binubutas ng mga daga, hindi na namin
kinukuha. Pinapabayaan na lang namin hanggang mabulok. Tagain hanggang
magsupling, ‘yon ang ipabunga mo naman,” she added.
Instead of just watching some of the ripe pineapples go to waste due to the absence of
buyers, some of those fruits were turned into vinegar and sold to the markets of
Brooke’s Point for P20 to P100.

Middlemen also affected
For seven years, it was routine for Margie Bolivar to buy the pineapple products of IPs
and supply them to her buyers in Puerto Princesa. Aside from the demands of tourists in El Nido, she is also supporting different buyers in the city, most of whom are in the
public market.
Like the rest of the locals, Margie didn’t expect the pandemic to last for almost two
years and lost her usual six buyers to two. From a profit of P6,000, they can only have
P500 to P1,000 now.
“Ngayon talagang taon, ayan talaga. Grabeng lugi namin, nalulugi rin kaming mga
namimili. May mga hindi rin nagbabayad sa amin. Malaki kung sa lugi,” Margie said.
“Pang-araw-araw na lang talaga namin ito, bagsak talaga. Pantawid na lang, wala na
kami ‘yong nakakatabi, nakakaipon. Magtitiyaga ka na lang siguro, magtitipid ka na lang
pero talagang hindi katulad noon,” she added.
As a buyer and also a vendor herself, she understands and sympathizes with the
situation of farmers and hopes that their struggles will end soon.

Decreased demand
The MAO cited that the absence of tourists coming from international and domestic
travelers is one of the factors of the decreased demand for pineapple. To temporarily aid the problem, the LGU bought pineapples in 2020 in celebration of the annual pineapple festival to distribute in the community.
“During the time ay peak harvest, nagkakaroon sila ng surplus ng mga produkto.
Dumating ang time ng pandemic, mahina na ang bentahan gawa ng limited na ang
biyahe, biyahero na dumadaan. Noong hindi pa istrikto ang pagbiyahe, maraming
buyers,” Genilan said.
“Gawa nong bumawas na, nabawasan na rin market nila. Maraming nabubulok, ‘yong
time na ‘yan ay peak harvest ng pinya,” she added.
Genilan said that their intervention could be the support to enhance the pineapple
vinegar produced by farmers out of ripe pineapple which is no longer in marketable
condition.
Julius Esteban, an agricultural technologist, said that farmers did not bring their smaller
pineapples down to the buying station as they were not marketable. According to
estimates, an income reduction of 40 to 50 percent was observed.
“Nasa 40 percent siguro (kawalan) kasi ang dating tag-P1000 na kantuwangan,
nagiging P600 to P700 lang na off season na tayo. Ang pinakamataas na nila ay P700
lang na good size, halos 50 percent nga. Ang small ay hindi na binaba—ginawang
suka,” he said.
Good quality pineapple usually rates at P1,400 per kantuwangan during the off-season
but it dropped to P700 in current trade. Each kantuwangan with large pineapple has
eight, 10, or 12 pineapples.

Farmers’ hope
Olivia and Peneng see that if the pandemic continues until next year, it could cause the
fall of the Bataraza pineapple industry in the eyes of Palaw’an farmers.
They are hoping that the demand will increase in December so they can also put meals
on their tables during the holiday season.
BEST AGRICULTURE FEATURE STORY NATIONAL
“CAVITE INTERIOR DESIGNER IS ALSO A WEEKEND FARMER”
VINA V. MEDENILLA
MANILA BULLETIN
This work chronicles interior designer Pinky Peralta’s 14-year farming journey. It’s a story of overcoming struggles and celebrating success as an artist, farmer, and mother.
FULL STORY
2021 FEATURE STORY NATIONAL
Cavite interior designer is also a weekend farmer

You would think that individuals with stable and good career paths would only stick to
their jobs and would still feel safe enough not to worry about the nation or their family’s
food security. It might be true for someone else, but this is not the case for this
professional.

A designer, artist, farmer, and mother
Pinky Peralta, an interior designer and a weekend farmer, discovered farming 14 years
ago. And because she was lacking in knowledge, she had to learn it from scratch. One
thing that led her into farming was her eagerness to connect with nature during a
depressing season of her life. “I had practically zero knowledge and skills in agriculture.
All I knew is that I had this desire to reconnect with the land. It was my way of knowing
the essence of my existence as a beloved child of God.”
Apart from being a woman of many titles, Peralta is also a nurturing mother of two. In
the same year that Weekend Farmer (TWF) was born, she also had a miscarriage. She
used farming to heal internally and TWF came to be an outlet that helped her to recover
from grief and loss.
Despite having no experience in growing any sort of food, this weekend farmer read
books, attended training, and asked people with farming experiences. She says, “I set
out to learn by attending a lot of training and workshops available to gear me towards
this transition. I know for a fact that what I wanted is organic and natural farming, having
read Fukuoka’s Last Straw Revolution book. So I set out to learn and learn the natural
way.”
The Weekend Farmer is a 2.5-hectare agritourism farm situated in Alfonso, Cavite that
houses perennial trees like Antipolo, coffee, bignay, madre de cacao (Gliricidia sepium),
and jackfruit integrated with livestock, poultry, and beekeeping. Back in 2006, the
Peraltas bought the land and envisioned the farm to be the source of their food. Today,
they get to enjoy the farm and its produce that took more than 10 years in the making.
Peralta’s inclination towards farming comes from her early years with her grandfather.
She says, “As I think about it, subconsciously, I may have inherited this innate passion
from my grandfather who, though he was into education, found time to cultivate a piece
of land for his family.” Even though her passion for farming kindled when she already
had a family, she believed that the patterns that she followed in agriculture is rooted in
her childhood experiences.
She also shares this passion with her husband who is a pastor dabbling in making craft
beer. The farm is close to their hearts because this is their first and only farm. The
Peraltas both have their day jobs aside from running the farm on weekends hence, the
brand’s name “The Weekend Farmer”.
Apart from the reason that weekends are the only time to plant and grow their food, they also wanted to set an example and inspire others that even though you have a job, it is still possible to grow your food. This vision to promote food production not only for
farmers, but also in every household is what paved the way for TWF to reach this far.

The 14-year old farm
From a chemically-induced and unproductive cassava plantation when they first bought
the land, it has evolved into a prolific natural farm that has been divided into four zones:
the first area includes a guesthouse for rent, a gazebo for gathering, and a kitchen for
cooking; the second zone is where you’ll see the veggie patch and the bee house; third
would be the space for fruit-bearing trees, root crops, and livestock; and the last zone is
where bananas, coconuts, and coffee plantations are found.
They began by cutting down the tall cogon grasses to gradually adding facilities on the
farm until it has developed into a space for crop and animal production as well as for the structures set for guests. In 2016, TWF opened its doors to the public with the goal to share the same passion with other people for self-sufficiency. They do this by offering
activities and workshops to individuals with or without a background in agriculture.
In terms of crops, they have more than a hundred perennial trees and medicinal plants
like serpentina, turmeric, peppers, lemongrass, oregano, tarragon, and cilantro. For the
trees, they have about 30 to 50 coffee, 20 bignay, around 60 to 30 guyabanos, 12 to 20
coconuts, and many more. They also cultivate lettuce, chilies, sitaw, eggplant, okra, and
other local vegetables that vary depending on the season. In growing them, Peralta
ensures they practice natural farming methods such as vermicomposting.
Since the beginning, Peralta only has two farmhands in running and maintaining the
farm: one farm manager and one cook. Every day, their routine is mainly watering and
pruning. If there are guests, TWF has an on-call housekeeper as well. Aside from their
wages, they can also get harvests from the farm for their personal consumption. Peralta
shared that whoever from her team is in need, she is also very much open and willing to
be with them every time.
The farm’s produce is either served in meals or freshly sold to the guests. During the
community quarantine period, TWF’s produce is distributed to the community and to the front liners in the vicinity.
Moreover, the farm also allows guests to pick their own veggies during harvest season,
which is one of the many farm activities called pick and pay. The money they get from
this goes to the maintenance of the farm.
TWF also offers accommodation, which can hold up to 35 persons per night in different
types of housing. When the farm was still for private use, Peraltas always invited their
friends at TWF and their peers’ experience on the farm sparked an idea of opening it to
the public as well. Due to the increasing demand from them, they gave in and opened
its doors last 2016 not only for monetary purposes, but more of promoting farm life to
other families as well.
You can book a farm visit and room via Airbnb. TWF is considered a Superhost (a
badge given to hosts with good service) on the app, where it got a lot of bookings
because of good reviews. Otherwise, guests can also book through their website or
Facebook account. They have various rooms: superior type, cabin style, and the kubo
style. They also host workshops, retreats, and celebrations for an intimate crowd.
In the future, Peraltas are aiming to build more amenities and services available on the
farm that are geared towards contemplation, rest, and productivity within the farm
premises.

Struggles to success
As someone who initially had no skills and practice in farming, Peralta has struggled a
lot. “I juggled my schedule as a professional interior designer and a struggling farmer.
Although I was completely inexperienced in toiling the land, nature became very patient
and taught me its ways.”
The progress may be slow, but this farmer remained undeterred by countless trials and
errors with an ambition to provide food for her family. On top of immersing in
farming-related books, she also applied the lessons by sowing seeds herself. “Yes, I
made lots of mistakes in the process, but because nature was my teacher, I was
rewarded with its patience and unconditional support. Ten years have passed and this
weekend farmer has become the consummate farmer for all seasons,” she said.
When asked why she ventured into farming, her answer was, “People are multiplying,
lands being converted to houses. People are bound to get hungry if I don’t become
accountable now for myself and the next generation.” She said that the existing health
crisis has also tested and showed the wealth of one’s family in terms of day-to-day
sustenance. “It doesn’t have to be a big business right away. When you answer your
own needs, the surplus will follow, and others will get inspired,” the farmer added.
A major challenge she has faced so far is the farm’s lean season which usually occurs
during the rainy months of June and onwards. Calamities like the Taal volcano eruption
and storms like typhoon Glenda are also big hurdles for the farm, especially when
overhead expenses top their income.
Due to the community quarantine brought by COVID-19, Peralta’s farm is currently
closed. They’re in the process of preparing their facilities to re-open the farm this month
to abide by the protocols set by the authorities.
These days, Peralta also noticed the increasing numbers of inquiries coming in during
the quarantine period. She added that this might be because people long to immerse
themselves in nature and visit destinations like TWF after months of being quarantined.
Hopefully, after the crisis passes, the citizenry would choose to uplift fellow Filipinos by
visiting and supporting local farms and farmers.
BEST AGRICULTURE FEATURE STORY REGIONAL
"DAVAO COFFEE BEGINING TO RISE IN COFFEE SCENE Part 1"
REUEL JOHN F. LUMAWAG
SUNSTAR DAVAO
This story examines the demand and supply side of the coffee industry, particularly in the Davao region following a spike in interest for coffee in the local market.
FULL STORY
2021 Feature STORY Regional
Davao coffee beginning to rise in coffee scene (Part 1)
Published on June 13, 2021

(Editor's note: This is a three-part series on the growing coffee scene in Davao Region)
DAVAO Region is known to be a major food basket in the country due to the variety of crops and fruits it produces. It is popular for the durian and pomelo. It is also known as the country's top producer of cavendish bananas. Recently, Davao Region has also been declared as the Cacao Capital of the Philippines.
In recent years, we are also seeing another crop industry that would soon be associated with Davao too -- coffee.
According to the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA), Davao Region produces 17.8 percent of the 60,000 metric tons (MT) of coffee produced nationwide in 2019. Davao Region is the second-largest producer of coffee in the Philippines, tied with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (Barmm). The biggest coffee producer in the country is Soccsksargen at 34.2.
Davao Region also has the second-largest number of fruit-bearing coffee trees at 13,608,316 as of 2015.
John Paul Matuguinas, Department of Agriculture-Davao (DA-Davao) regional focal person for the High Value Crop Development Program (HVCDP), said Davao Region is a suitable place to plant coffee trees.
"Fertility sa soil, sa weather, as well as sa climate nato is very ideal for industrial plants such as coffee (Davao Region is suitable for industrial plants like coffee because of its fertile soil, weather, and climate)," Matuguinas said.
He said the arabica, robusta, liberica, and excelsa varieties can be planted in Davao Region.
Arabica, which should be planted at an elevation of more than 1,000 meters above sea level (MASL), can thrive in some of the region's highlands. Robusta, liberica, and excelsa, which can be grown at below 800 MASL, can be planted in most parts of the region.
Coffee For Peace (CFP) Founder and Chief Executive Officer Joji Pantoja said Davao Region's edge is in its arabica and robusta coffee beans, which are widely planted by most coffee farmers in Davao Region. These two varieties that are also beginning to shine in the domestic and international coffee market.

Arabica
According to the Bureau of Plant Industry of DA, Arabica is regarded for its flavor and aroma. Mugshots founder and local coffee roaster Beauford Ma said "arabica beans possess a satisfying amount of acidity and tend to have a multi-layered intricacy of flavors and aromas."
ACDI/VOCA Business Development Coordinator Emmanuel Quisol, in an online interview with SunStar Davao, said the region's arabica coffee beans have the potential to make a mark in both the international and local markets.
"One of the strengths of the Arabica coffee beans produced from Davao Region is their
consistency in terms of quality. This is illustrated in their performance in the past and most recent results of the Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC). Entries from Davao Region have consistently landed in the top list," Quisol said.
This is evident with the recent success of Davao coffee farmers in the Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC) on May 26, 2021.
Five farmers from the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (Bacofa) in Bansalan, Davao del Sur were among the top six in the Arabica category of the PCQC 2021.
In the first place is Marites Arellano whose coffee beans scored an average of 85.86. She is followed by Lendilou Loon (85.07), Jastine Mae Dubria (84.71), and Marifel dela Cerna (84.64). 
Maria Luz Dubria placed sixth with 83.07.
Shaun Ong, Head Judge of PCQC 2021, praised the arabica beans from Davao Region, saying that they are among the best he has tasted from the country.
"This year’s winning specialty Arabica coffee of Marites Arellano has an average score of 85.86, which is super close to the preferred international score of 86 for this category. We are getting there, and I won’t be surprised that in the next year or two, we will be seeing coffee entries achieving higher scores," Quisol said.
This is not the first time our local farmers placed high in the annual PCQC, which is now in its fourth year.
In 2018, Juanita Amaba placed second in the Arabica category after she scored an average of 86.03. Her natural processed beans had notes of caramel, guava, banana, rose, and sweet spice.
In 2019, Marivic Dubria placed first after scoring an 85.36 for her natural processed coffee beans. Her beans had notes of hibiscus, pineapple, lemon, green apple, thyme, basil, and spice.
Marivic's beans were cupped and featured at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston,
Massachusetts in the United States in 2019.
"Davao Region is now positioning itself as premier source of high-quality specialty Arabica coffee after its series of wins in the PCQC. Undeniably, some of the best-tasting Arabica coffee in the country comes from this region," Quisol said.
He added that local farmers can take advantage of this emerging status and may expand their production to other areas with higher elevations.
At present, you can find arabica plantations in several areas at the foothills of Mount Apo.
"Aside from the areas in Davao del Sur that are surrounding Mt. Apo, there are other locations within the region that can be developed into sustainable and environmentally friendly coffee farms such as those in Talaingod in Davao del Norte, some areas in Davao Oriental and in Davao Occidental as well," Quisol said.

Robusta
When it comes to robusta coffee, despite being widely planted by most coffee farmers in
Mindanao, Quisol said Davao Region coffee farmers have yet to tap the opportunities that come with it.
Since robusta coffee thrives in lower elevation at below 800 MASL, many of the areas tend to be more dedicated to other crops.
"Opportunities for Robusta coffee in Davao Region has yet to be fully materialized. I think this will require some convincing among farmers who are used to producing other equally important crops such as coconut, cacao, bananas, mangoes, and rice," Quisol said. After working with coffee farmers in Mindanao and other parts of the country, Pantoja said they are pushing for the robusta.
"I am entering robusta kasi (because) that is where we have so many farmers. So, gusto kong gawin talagang popular yung robusta para matulungan pa yung mas maraming farmers (I want to also popularize the robusta because we can help more farmers)," Pantoja said.
However, what they are promoting right now in CFP is not simply the pure robusta but the fine robusta.
Ma said when brewed, pure robusta has low to no acidity and usually tastes earthier, woodier, more rubbery, and more bitter than the arabica.
"With regular robusta, you really get a dry throat and if you feel it, your throat feels scratchy because of the salt, and it is really bitter on the back of the tongue," Byron Pantoja, CFP vice preside for operations and Q Arabica and Robusta grader, said.
Byron added, "with the fine robusta, it is super smooth. You feel like you have a full mouth, a nice heavy coffee but it’s really smooth and it tastes sweet and good."
Pantoja said CFP is helping several coffee farmers to develop and improve the quality of their robusta coffee.
"What we do here in coffee for peace, we blend it. We have the specialty arabica mixed with fine robusta, yun ang pinapopularize namin (we are working on popularizing this)," Pantoja said.
The arabica and fine robusta blend is CFP's Kapeyapaan 4AM Arabica & Robusta Coffee. Coffee beans are sourced from Mount Apo and are 33.3-percent robusta and 66.6-percent arabica (Catimor varietal).
Pantoja said Koreans are coming to the Philippines looking for fine robusta.
Long way to go Despite the recent gains of the local coffee industry, leaders in the industry say there is still room for improvement for our coffee farmers both in quality and quantity.
Pantoja said in competing in the international coffee market, there is a need to improve the quality considering that the Philippines does not have large contiguous lands to plant a massive coffee farm.
"We have to take note that the Philippines is a group of islands. Therefore, wala tayong
panlaban kay (It is not easy to compete with) Vietnam that could plant sa massive and areas nila. So our only edge is to produce... premium and specialty coffee and fine robusta," Pantoja said.
Quisol, for his part, said local coffee farmers still struggle to meet local demand.
"While the potentials of Philippine coffee are recognized through the PCQC, we also must note that there is a huge demand for Philippine specialty coffee in the local market... Also, for a country that is a net importer of coffee, we cannot meet domestic demand in terms of volume.
And the demand is expected to continuously increase in the coming years," he said.
CFP and ACDI/VOCA are currently working with DA and Department of Industry to improve coffee quality and raise awareness of Philippine coffee.
======================================
Demand for local coffee going up but production struggles (Part 2)
Published on June 20, 2021

[Editor's note: This is the second of a three-part series of "Davao coffee on the rise." The first part was published on June 13 and can be read here ]

THE local coffee scene has been growing in recent years.
Coffee For Peace (CFP) Founder and Chief Executive Officer Joji Pantoja noted how there were only a handful of coffee shops in Davao City in 2006. Fast forward to the present, there are now dozens of coffee shops and cafes in the city where Dabwenyos get their daily caffeine fix.
Even during the pandemic, the local scene has been making strides, albeit smaller -- the coffee stalls and mobile coffee shops.
In a previous interview with ACDI/VOCA Business Development Coordinator Emmanuel Quisol, he said the rise of mobile coffee shops can be born out of the closure of several cafes and coffee shops.
"This has displaced a lot of our talented baristas. Coffeeholics and regular customers of these shops have to find ways to get the daily caffeine fix. The rise of these mobile coffee shops addresses the gap that the closure of the favorite coffee shops created. This has created a positive impact on the local coffee market as these shops now bring coffee closer to their customers," Quisol said.
The sight of a barista preparing you a cup of coffee at their mobile coffee shop along the streets of Davao City has become a common scene. Not only are they serving a good cup of coffee but they are also helping more Dabawenyos learn and appreciate coffee.
Quisol said mobile coffee shops are "a good way to allow more people learn, appreciate and taste specialty coffee."
Pantoja said the growth in the local coffee scene is not only observed in the number of coffee shops opening. She said they have also observed a change in what customers are looking for in a coffee.
"Mukhang nag-iincrease din yung curiosity with the fact that we are teaching them," she said.
Unlike before, coffee tasting or coffee familiarity is now a common set-up in the local coffee shops allowing more people to learn about coffee.
"Coffee familiarity and coffee tasting educate consumers. Once you educate the consumer, sila na mismo yung sasabi na 'iba ang lasa ng kapeng ito noh as compared to this coffee?' (Some of them can now differentiate the taste of one coffee from another)," Pantoja said.
She said Millenials and those aged between 30 to 40 years old tend to look for coffee that would give them different experiences in terms of how it tastes.
Another testament to the growth of the local coffee scene, arabica coffee beans produced by farmers from Davao Region has recently made their mark at the Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC). Since 2018, beans from the region have consistently placed in the Top 6.
This recent success of coffee beans at the PCQC has also driven its demand up.
"We can speak for the experience of the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (Bacofa) whom we have provided support through the PhilCafe Project. The cooperative used to have only around 15 to 16 buyers in the past three years, but now, this number has increased to 31," Quisol said.
Members of Bacofa are consistently in the top six of PCQC. This year, five of its members placed in the top six. The top three this year are also from them.
Based on their list, among the buyers of coffee beans from Bacofa are Equilibrium Intertrade Corporation, Gourmet Coffee, Le Festine, Bote Central, La Rosteria, Purge Coffee, Yellow Turtle Coffee, Frog Kaffe, Lick Coffee, Coffee Culture, Coffee for Peace, Pistacia Mindanao, and Kape Coffee Trading.
"It is growing and I see that growing more and more because marami na nagdadaldal about coffee (A lot are now talking about coffee)," Pantoja said.
She added that there is still room for growth for the local coffee industry in Davao City.
"But we want more kase di pa lahat eh. Hindi pa siya saturated kumbaga kaunti palang
population ng ating society (We can grow even more because we have not saturated the market yet). So, we need to saturate our whole country na 'hey people we have good coffee, patronize our own coffee,'" Pantoja said.
Meeting the demands Quisol said with an increase in demand for coffee, local farmers "in Davao Region are not able to meet the demand in terms of volume."
In terms of consumption, according to German-based data research firm Statista, there is an increasing trend in coffee consumption in the Philippines. Data from the research firm showed that the Philippines consumed around 3.3 million 60-kilogram bags of coffee in 2020. That is roughly around 198,000 metric tons. Data consists of all varieties of coffee beans. According to the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA), the Philippines produced around 60,000 metric tons (MT) of coffee nationwide in 2019. Davao Region produces 17.8 percent of that total. These are barely enough to cover the consumption of the domestic market.
"For a country that is a net importer of coffee, we cannot meet domestic demand in terms of volume. And the demand is expected to continuously increase in the coming years," Quisol said.
Production of Arabica coffee beans, which is gaining popularity with more coffee shops offering specialty coffee, are also struggling to meet local demands.
Quisol said while they do not have the latest actual figure of coffee production in Davao Region, for the Mount Apo area in Davao del Sur, green arabica coffee beans volume produced per year is estimated to be around 60 to 65 metric tons.
"While the potentials of Philippine coffee are recognized through the PCQC, we also must note that there is a huge demand for Philippine specialty coffee in the local market," Quisol said, adding that it would not be easy for local farmers to play in the international market if it struggles to meet the local demand.
Quisol said when the demand for Philippine specialty coffee peaks in the local market, farmers could no longer meet the needs of its buyers.
"For instance, some Davao-based farmers have to allocate available volume for each buyer in order to cater to their requirements and to ensure that everyone is served," he said.
Pantoja said, unlike other coffee-producing countries, the Philippines, in general, does not have large swaths of land where farmers can plant coffee trees.
John Paul Matuguinas, Department of Agriculture-Davao (DA-Davao) regional focal person for the High-Value Crop Development Program (HVCDP), said some farmers would opt to plant other crops instead of coffee.
"Naay mga uban nga naa coffee trees pero ginaputol nila gusto na nila mga kanang cavendish kay dako og kita. Pero wala sila kabalo nga mas naay pa dako potential sa pagkakape sa Davao Region."
(Some farmers already have coffee trees, but they opt to cut it down and plant cavendish banana instead because, for them, you get a higher income from it. However, they are unaware that there is a huge potential for coffee in Davao Region.)
With the local coffee farmers still unable to meet the demand of the domestic market, Quisol said, "The international market is dream that we have yet to fully penetrate."
This despite farmers has already started exporting their coffee beans outside the country. Quisol said there is a need to improve and streamline existing processes to allow coffee farmers to meet the demands of the domestic and international market.
"As a whole, the entire Philippine coffee industry must standardize its protocols and streamline the processes in exporting of coffee products," he said.
Pantoja, meanwhile, said while it will be a challenge for the Philippines to increase areas for coffee production due to it being an archipelago, there is still hope for local coffee.
She said aside from the volume of production, there is also a need for the local farmers to meet the growing demand for quality coffee.
"Siguro yung mga coffee shops na nagtatanong na wala silang supply, that uses roasted coffee, (Maybe some of those coffee shops that are using roasted coffee and are struggling to look for supply) are the ones looking for a good quality coffee. And we have a problem with that," she said. 
Pantoja said by improving the quality of Philippine coffee, it could compete competitively in the domestic and international market.
"Of course we have to take note that Philippine is a group of islands. Therefore, wala tayong panlaban kay (It would be a challenge to compete with) Vietnam that could plant sa massive land areas nila. So, our only edge is to reproduce...specialty coffee and fine robusta," she said.
Matuguinas said to address the volume and quality gap, the private and public sector are coming together to help the industry.
=============================

Private, public sector work together to improve coffee production, quality (Part 3)
Published on June 28, 2021

Editor's note: This is the last part of the Davao Coffee Rising series.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the country produced a total of 60,043.88 MT in 2019. Data from the Department of Agriculture (DA) showed the Philippines is only 32.40 percent self-sufficient in its coffee production. The country imports 67 percent of its coffee.
Under the Philippine Coffee Industry Roadmap 2017-2022, the Philippine government targets to increase coffee production in the country to 214,626 metric tons by 2022. However, based on current trends, coffee production in the Philippines remains to be below the target set in the roadmap.
For 2019, the target production was at 68,135 MT. However, based on PSA data, only 60,043.88 MT was produced in the country.
For 2020, around 95,389 MT was targeted for the industry. However, based on the preliminary data of the Major Non-Food and Industrial Crops Quarterly Bulletin of PSA, only 60,636.15 MT was produced. Of this number, 10,826.26 MT were produced in Davao Region.
Emmanuel Quisol, ACDI/VOCA Business Development Coordinator, said farmers in Davao Region are not able to meet the demands on the market in terms of volume since there are lot of coffee buyers who run after limited volume of supply.
"For example, when the demand for Philippine specialty coffee peaks in the local market, our farmers could no longer meet the needs of our buyers. For instance, some Davao-based farmers have to allocate available volume for each buyer in order to cater to their requirements and to ensure that everyone is served."
Coffee For Peace (CFP) Founder and CEO Joji Pantoja have also said earlier that, unlike other coffee-producing nations, the Philippines, in general, does not have large contiguous lands to allow for massive production of coffee.
John Paul Matuguinas, Department of Agriculture-Davao (DA-Davao) regional focal person for the High Value Crop Development Program (HVCDP), also said some farmers would opt to plant other crops instead of coffee because it either grows faster or allows farmers to earn more faster.
"Naay mga uban nga naa coffee trees pero ginaputol nila gusto na nila mga kanang cavendish kay dako og kita. Pero wala sila kabalo nga mas naay pa dako potential sa pagkakape sa Davao Region (There are farmers who cut the coffee trees and plant cavendish instead because they bet bigger profits. However, they are not aware of the real potential coffee)," Matuguinas said.
Pantoja said since it will not be easy to increase production, local farmers could also focus on the quality of their coffee beans.
But Matuguinas said the supply side of the industry also struggles to meet the quality that some on the demand side look for.
"Ang challenges sa atoang farmers sa Davao Region is particulary on...information sa quality conciousness... Dili kaayo sila concious sa quality sa ilahang kape (One of the challenge of our local farmers is their quality counciousness. They are not concious about the quality of their coffee)," he said.
Pantoja and Quisol also stated that another factor that prevents local farmers from producing quality coffee is the lack of decent post-harvest facilities.
"One of the challenges our local coffee farmers are access to modern harvest and post-harvest facilities. These include drying beds, warehouses (there was one built for BACOFA but was damaged due to the series of earthquakes in 2019), additional cupping laboratories (we have a few, but more laboratories are welcome), among others," Quisol said in an online interview.
To allow for better quality and improved coffee production, the private and public sector are providing inputs to our local coffee farmers.

Government response
Matuguinas said the agency, through its HVCDP, is committed to helping boost the production of the coffee industry and at the same time, ensure quality coffee beans.
"Ang gina-provide sa DA is in terms of production, naga hatag ta og planting materials para mas ma-expand pa atong mga coffee areas kay mao pud na atoang goal (We provide farmers with
planting materials to allow the expansion of coffee areas, which is part of our goals)," he said. Mataguinas said they also provide farmers with fertilizers, pruning shears, and pruning saws.
Farmers are also being trained on how to care for the coffee trees.
"If naa sila existing nga coffee trees, naa pud ta'y rejuvenation training para maka bata og balik ang ilang kape (If the farmers have existing non-bearing coffee trees, we provide them training on how to rejuvenate those trees so it will bear again)," Matuguinas said.
Marites Arellano, whose coffee beans placed first in the Arabica Category of the 2021 Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC), was among the beneficiaries of the Coffee Rejuvenation Project. In a press statement, under the program, farmers are given close release fertilizer, pruning shears and pruning saw for its coffee rejuvenation program and post-harvest and processing facilities such as tramline system, dryers, a roasting facility, hauling truck, and mini-storage.
Matuguinas said they also provide coffee farmers associations with post-harvest equipment and other facilities for coffee to consolidate their produce. He added that they are not only focused on providing farmers with planting materials and
post-harvest facilities, they are also working on helping them improve the quality of their coffee beans.
"Isa sa main thrusts and aim ni DA karon is to educate coffee farmers to be more conscious sa quality (One of our main thrusts and aim right now is educating the farmers to be more conscious with their quality)," Matuguinas said, adding that one of the things they do is assessing the post-harvest process of the farmers.
Private sector response Those in the private sector are also implementing programs or are working with farmers to improve the quality of their coffee and increase the yield of their plantations. 
ACDI/VOCA, a non-profit organization, is currently working with coffee farmers through the PhilCAFE Project, which is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). "We aim to increase production of conventional and specialty coffee, boost the country’s coffee exports, and build the capacity and expand service provision of the coffee value chain," Quisol said. 
He said the project targets to strengthen the capacities of at least 13,700 coffee farmers in the Philippines, expand services support to 350 coffee value chain players, increase by 50 percent the country’s coffee production, and increase coffee exports ten-fold.
Quisol said PhilCAFE facilitates the expansion of extension services to increase the adoption of good agricultural practices (GAP) and improve on-farm technologies in coffee production.
"In addition to GAP, we also provide assistance in farm management and establishment of sustainable delivery services for extension. We train producer organization leaders, local government technicians, coffee mentors, and members of coffee-producing cooperatives and communities on GAP who cascade these training to members of their cooperatives and other association members," he said.
Among the farmers ACDI/VOCA has helped are the members of the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (Bacofa) in Bansalan, Davao del Sur. In the PCQC 2021, five of the top six coffee beans under the Arabica category are produced by farmers of Bacofa, of which Arellano is also part.
In a statement from ACDI/VOCA, Arellano shared that in producing quality beans, she
implemented the good agricultural practices (GAP) she had learned during a Coffee Quality Institute training organized by PhilCAFE.
One of ACDI/VOCA's earlier beneficiaries is Marivic Dubria, who is currently the chairperson of Bacofa. In 2019, she won the Philippines Coffee Quality Competition in the Arabica category.
Following her win, she became one of the delegates that represented the Philippines in the 2019 Specialty Coffee Expo in Boston, US. 
"PhilCAFE project also supports the establishment of nurseries that produce high-quality
seedlings and will strengthen producer access to retail input agents while increasing the
capacity of producer organizations as a critical link in the coffee value chain," Quisol said. 

Coffee, a vehicle for peace
Among the earlier movers of the local coffee industry in Davao Region is Coffee for Peace. The social enterprise has been working with coffee farmers and the government to not only help improve the coffee industry but also promote peace.
"When we were doing our peace building work in Maguindanao, Basilan, and Sulu. I noticed that even the Muslim people, the Indigenous people, and the Christians like coffee," she said.
She said each cultural community has a distinct way of serving coffee to their guests.
"Na surprise [ako] because when we were with the Tausug or with the Maguindanao, they serve us their coffee yung niluto sa palayok, may asukal na nga lang pero masarap pa rin. Sa Bagobo-Tagabawa naman yung coffee nila may halong mais (I was quite surprised because when we visited the Tausug or when we were with the Maguindanao, they served us their version of coffee that was brewed in a clay pot. It was served with sugar and tasted good.
Meanwhile, the Bagobo-Tagabawa mixed theirs with corn)," Pantoja said.
She said coffee is common among different people of different communities and serves as a medium for people to converse with one another.
Pantoja added, "This cup [of coffee] can make people sit [down], converse, and dialogue... Whatever conflict they have can be settled."
As it promotes peace through coffee, it was able to help improve the coffee quality and
production in the communities it was working with Pantoja said when they started working with some of the communities, there was definitely a
gap in how they process their beans.
She said when they visited one of their partner communities in 2006 or 2007, they noticed that there was a problem with the coffee beans that were being produced. The farmers then were still following old practices to produce their beans.
"Yung traditional style nila ng preparation ng coffee hindi papasa sa international standards (The traditional way they prepare or process coffee would not pass international standards)," Pantoja said.
She studied the good agricultural practices of other coffee-producing countries and shared them with the farmers.
Pantoja recalled that when their first community passed the standards set by the international market, they exported around 600 kilograms of coffee beans to Canada. It was well received and the buyer requested more.
"They want more but I was honest to them na (that) we can only produce 2 tons to 10 tons, not a truckload, 38 tons di namin kaya (We cannot produce 38 tons of coffee beans)," she said.
Hence, Coffee for Peace began working with the government to reach out to more farmers. "Para makapag train ng maraming farmers, kailangan ko ng collaboration with government (I need to collaborate with the government to train more farmers)," she said. Pantoja added that by also partnering with the government, they will be able to provide the needed equipment for the farmers.
Coffee for Peace trains its partners with good agricultural practices and coffee processing. Eventually, the collaboration with government agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry, helped improve the production and quality of the coffee beans of the community partners.
She said the communities they have helped can now supply at least 32,000 kilograms (kg), which is an improvement from only 2,000kg when they started.
Right now, they are working with farmers at the foot of Mt. Apo, Bacofa included. They are currently working with farmers who are part of the Obo Manuvu. They are also set to work with another community in the Paquibato district in Davao City.
It is through these partnerships between public and private sectors that allows the coffee farmers to keep up with the changes and enhance the quality of the beans it produces.
Quisol said by working on the gaps in the supply side, the coffee farmers and the beans they produce will be competitive in the international market and address the needs of the domestic market.
"To produce high-quality coffee, it requires patience, endurance, discipline, and diligence. The farmers must employ GAP in the entire coffee production process (seedlings, farm management, harvest, and post-harvest production)," he said.
He said this may sound difficult to achieve, but once the farmers have adopted all these traits, the results are phenomenal.
"Based on our experience in the field, those who religiously followed our recommended
practices and protocols emerged as winners not only in the PCQC, but also in attracting buyers for their products," Quisol said.
BEST ONLINE STORY
“SUSTAINABLE LIVELIHOOD OFFERS A LIFE LINE TO PHILIIPPINES' DYING RICE TERRACES”
KARLSTON LAPNITEN
MONGABAY
The future of the Ifugao Rice Terraces and its forests are under social and economic threats. This material takes a look at the efforts to boost farmers’ income through sustainable livelihood projects to help preserve this World Heritage Site.
FULL STORY
2021 BEST ONLINE STORY
Sustainable livelihood offers a lifeline to Philippines’ dying rice terraces

IFUGAO, Philippines — Aided by a pair of glasses and a traditional short, curved
dagger, 69-year-old farmer Rosita Gano harvests rice grains, one stalk after another,
using only one hand, a passed-on skill she has mastered through decades of practice.
The harvest from the cluster of rice terraces she inherited from her forebears ensures
her family’s annual supply of rice, the staple food in the Philippines and most Asian
countries.
Here in Ifugao province, seated at the heart of Luzon, the Philippines’ largest island,
Indigenous farmers like Gano have practiced and preserved agricultural traditions that
date back half a millennium. But faced with changing economic and social conditions,
many are starting to question the future of not only the province’s magnificent
hand-carved rice terraces, but also the cultural practices intimately entwined with
traditional methods of farming and land management.
“These terraces have sustained our ancestors for generations and it has sustained us
as well. We can only hope that it will continue for generations to come,” Gano says.
The rice terraces, an engineering feat that have survived time and are still serving their
original farming purpose 500 years later, are irrigated by waters from the Ifugao forests.
The province forms part of the Cordillera mountain range and hosts the watershed that
sustains three major rivers — the Lamut, Ibulao and Alimit — which run into the Magat
dam, the second-largest in Luzon.
In 1995, UNESCO inscribed five clusters of rice terraces in Ifugao as World Heritage
Sites, describing them as “a living cultural landscape of unparalleled beauty.” These are
the Nagacadan terraces in the town of Kiangan; the terraces in the towns of Hungduan
and Mayoyao; and the Bangaan and Batad terraces in the town of Banaue.
This recognition placed Ifugao on the global map, contributing to making tourism a
major industry in the province.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, from 2017 to 2019, an annual average of 71,400
tourists, nearly half of them foreigners, stayed in lodgings in the province, according to
data from the Department of Tourism of the Cordillera Administrative Region that
includes Ifugao. In 2019, tourists in Ifugao spent nearly $18 million, according to the
tourism department.
But Ifugao is more than just a picturesque landscape for tourists to admire. On these
terraces, Indigenous people grow tinawon rice, a native white glutinous variety that is
cultivated only once a year, compared to two to four harvests a year for commercial
varieties of rice.
Rice planting coincides with the end of the rainy season, from December to February.
During this period, water stored in the forests is slowly released from springs and creeks
to keep the terraces irrigated throughout the year.
Most of the population of Ifugao comprises ethnolinguistic groups also collectively
referred to as the Ifugao people. The rituals and culture of the Ifugaos revolve around
the cultivation of tinawon, a gift from the sky-world gods, according to Ifugao mythology.
But the tinawon, the terraces it is grown on, and the forested regions around these
iconic landscapes are today threatened by rapid conversion of forests and terraces into
conventional vegetable farms.
Turning terraces, forests into conventional farms
This shift can be attributed to the low profitability and high cost and labor intensity of rice farming, says Jude Baggo of the Ifugao Rice Terraces–Globally Important Agricultural
Heritage Systems Center of Ifugao State University.
As an annual crop, tinawon harvests are only enough for subsistence needs, forcing
families to look for other forms of livelihood to pay for the rising costs of basic needs
and education, Baggo says.
In Banaue alone, around 540 of the total 1,607 hectares (1,334 out of 3,971 acres) of
rice terraces have been abandoned, with large portions lost to erosion, according to
2018 municipal data. Baggo’s village of Bangbang in Hungduan town is in even worse
shape: he estimates half of the original rice terraces have been abandoned.
Even with the introduction of mechanical equipment like cultivators and threshers, he
says, many of the younger generation still shun farming in general, perceiving as an
occupation for the uneducated.
Gano, who learned how to farm at a young age from her parents, concurs. In the
tourism village of Hapao in Hungduan, young people show no interest in farming rice
due, and are drawn instead to the more lucrative and less laborious forms of livelihood
in urban areas, she says.
“Now, they just buy rice from the lowlands. So when we [older farmers] die, expect the
knowledge and culture of rice farming to die with us,” Gano says.
Rice terraces that aren’t abandoned are often converted into commercial vegetable
farms, Baggo says. This can be seen in the towns of Banaue, Hingyon, Hungduan and
Mayoyao, where vegetable plots, mostly tomatoes or cabbage, have replaced rice on
some terraces.
This more intensive form of farming can yield two to three times as much sellable
produce per unit of land than rice farming, with three to four harvests per year. But these gains are short-lived.
Prolonged use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides gradually destroy the natural state
of the soil, making it unworkable. This leads to more abandoned terraces and the
conversion of even more of the remaining rice terraces. Or it can push farmers to clear
out forested watershed areas in search of new land. Besides being ecologically
damaging, such practices could end the Ifugao culture that revolves around rice, and
the terraces’ status as a World Heritage Site.
“This kind of [conventional vegetable] farming will never be sustainable,” says Marlon
Martin, head of heritage conservation organization Save the Ifugao Terraces Movement
(SITMO). “It makes the environment suffer, soon the people will follow.”
Even privately owned and managed woodlots, called muyong or pinugo, which play a
critical role in the maintenance of the rice terraces, are not spared from the land
conversion, Martin says.
Situated above the rice terraces and below the communal forests, the muyong provide a
critical regulatory function by ensuring water supply to the rice terraces while preventing soil erosion due to high rainfall, a frequent phenomenon in the Philippines.
Until the early 2000s, dense forests covered the mountains at the town limits of Asipulo,
Kiangan, and Tinoc. Now, wide tracts of carrots, cabbages and other semi-temperate,
non-native vegetable varieties dot the watershed. And some farmers who have
maintained their rice terraces have also ventured into vegetable farming, clearing
forests for fresh and wider lands.
Although there is no available government data yet as to the actual extent of land
conversion, Martin says the destructive trend started creeping into the towns of Asipulo
and Kiangan at least a decade ago.
“Before it was just converting rice terraces into [vegetable] gardens, then their muyong.
Now, they are doing slash-and-burn and they do not care if the forests are being
decimated,” Martin says.
In Tinoc and the neighboring province of Benguet, where vegetable farming is the main
agricultural industry, uncontrolled farm expansion has decimated forested mountains,
including 70% of the 5,513-hectare (13,620-acre) Mount Data National Park, according
to 2019 data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Land conversion intensified following government restrictions imposed on economic
activities to curb the spread of COVID-19. People who lost their livelihoods due to the
decline in tourism and other businesses during the pandemic were easily swayed
toward the destructive methods of vegetable farming, Gano says.
Martin says it’s a classic dilemma of belly versus environment, where the latter is
“unfortunately bound to lose.”
Deforestation leads to decreased water supply for the rice terraces, which need to be
submerged year-round to maintain productive plants, retain ground moisture, and
prevent erosion, says Moises Butic, a forester previously with the DENR.
As deforestation reduces access to water, rice farmers are forced to skip the year’s crop
of tinawon, or convert their rice terraces into vegetable farms to earn money,
perpetuating the cycle.
The clearing of woodlots and forests also reduces the diverse sources of raw material
for handicrafts like baskets and wood carvings, firewood, timber, medicine, and
materials used for rituals.
In fact, indigenous trees like the palayon (also known as Philippine oak)
and tuwol (bishop wood), which were once abundant across the Ifugao mountains, are
now only seen in dense forests and sparsely in muyong areas, Butic says. Having
served with the DENR for 40 years, Butic retired in 2019 and returned to his hometown
in Kiangan to help revive the muyong practice of his people.
For now, vegetable farming may be profitable for farmers. But in time, the chemicals
used in commercial vegetable farming will affect soil health, seep through the ground
and pollute water sources or drain into the rivers, Butic says.
“If there is no intervention to this trend [of land conversion], the Ifugao forests will slowly disappear in a few years, so will the rice terraces, and so will the Ifugao culture,” he says.
Patches of hope and sustainable solutions
There are still patches of hope in the Ifugao landscape. In the village of Mompolia in
Hingyon town, farmers still cultivate tinawon in rice fields inherited from their forebears.
There are still young people here keen to learn the knowledge of maintaining the
tinawon and the muyong system, like 28-year-old Geomar Pugong, an engineer. He
works in the provincial capital, Lagawe, but goes back home frequently to tend his
family’s rice fields and maintain the traditional cycle of rice farming.
“Eating a cup of tinawon is like eating two cups of the commercial rice. So it may take
time to harvest but it is more profitable in a sense,” Pugong says.
SITMO is also working to maintain a dozen terraces where tinawon and other native rice
species are grown. On the unterraced portions, it grows dry highland rice varieties.
Martin says they collect the grains and distribute them to partner farmers who are
interested in maintaining the traditional cycle of rice farming.
But until the government takes a holistic approach, deforestation will continue to worsen with the increasing demand for vegetables and timber, Martin says. The solution, he says, is to provide farmers with sustainable alternative livelihoods based on their existing resources to complement rice agriculture. Given better opportunities to earn, he says, farmers can revive traditional rice agriculture, which relies on good management of the muyong.
This July, SITMO carried out an initiative promoting honey production to vegetable
farmers on the border between the towns of Kiangan and Asipulo, where forests have
been cleared for farms. This livelihood alternative is based on pallunan, the traditional
knowledge of constructing beehives in the forests, coinciding with the migration of bee
colonies in the area. The beehives are then left for a period of time before being
harvested for their honey and wax.
Just this year, Martin says, a farmer was able to harvest 300 bottles of wild honey, which
can fetch about $20 a bottle at the local market. This form of livelihood requires the
farmers to manage the forests well to ensure the bees are protected and have abundant sources of food to turn into honey. This then kicks off a virtuous circle in which other forms of sustainable livelihood, such as ecotourism and handicrafts, using ample raw materials, can thrive, Martin says.
“They will eventually give up the destructive commercial vegetable agriculture and
instead restore and invigorate the forest which will provide [for] their needs,” he says.
These profitable activities can be sustainably derived from nature without damaging the
source and encourage a symbiotic relationship between the community and nature, he
adds. Baggo says rebranding local products such as indigenous rice and handicrafts in the framework of conserving the Ifugao rice terraces and forests could boost sales. He calls for supportive programs to advance existing efforts, like the Ifugao Satoyama Meister Training program at Ifugao State University. Under this Japanese government-funded program, participants study ways to reinvent traditional raw materials derived from the rice terrace ecosystem into a profitable enterprise
Ultimately, though, it’s the Philippine government that has to support farmers to protect
these culturally rich landscapes, Baggo says. The government should establish
sustainable market linkages and help rice farmers transition to using e-commerce to
broaden their market, he says.
“A sustainable market means farmers can focus on tending the rice terraces and the
forests. Ecological balance is then maintained,” he says.
Butic says the government should stop using invasive, non-native tree species such as
gmelina and mahogany in its National Regreening Program, aimed at restoring forests.
He says invasive monoculture species like these eliminate diversity and aren’t suitable
for the woodlots since they shed leaves during the dry season and can easily break and
topple over.
Another way to encourage more Indigenous farmers to restore the denuded forests is to incentivize those who conserve rather than burden them with requirements, Butic says.
For instance, the government should conduct land and content surveys for free for
those who intend to restore or improve their muyong, and make the processing of
documents easier, he says.
Currently, people who seek to have their woodlots surveyed are charged processing
and permit fees, which, Butic says, discourages landowners from seeking government
help.
“Why burden them and take their money for trying to conserve the forests?” he says.
By implementing this wide range of solutions, more younger people might be interested
in returning to agroforestry, says Regina Guimpatan-Gano, an instructor at Ifugao State
University, which offers a bachelor’s degree in agriculture.
“We need to change their mindset by giving them excellent examples,” she says. “Only
then can they probably see that an agriculture degree is profitable right at home.”
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