Organic Fest opens today

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Thursday, November 22, 2012


NEGROS Occidental Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. urged local farmers Wednesday to shift to high value crops in line with the Capitol’s aim to make Negros the food basket of the Philippines.

Marañon made the encouragement in his address during a program of the Negros Fair Trade Assembly and 7th Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival which will have its formal opening today.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala is set to be the guest speaker in the opening rites today.

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The launching of Fair Trade-Negros and the National Year of Rice 2013, and the opening of Traditional Farming Equipment Exhibit at the Negros Museum are also set today.

Marañon's encouragement of shifting to high value crops is partly due to the uncertain future faced by the sugar industry come 2015 when tariff on imported sugar will be lifted and locally produced sugar, which accounts for at least 70 percent of the province’s economy, will face stiff competition from cheaper imported sugar, primarily from Thailand.

He pointed out that numerous farmers have already proven that there is money in high value crops.

In terms of the market for high value crops, Marañon said there are about 20 million people in Metro Manila who are the potential market for the local crops. He said, "These people in Metro Manila do not produce their own food. We are going to feed them. Our asset is abundant water in the province. In farming, water is very important."

Marañon also bared plans of putting up food terminal markets all over the province, as he emphasized the food security program of his administration.

Other activities lined up today are Palayok Slow Food Cooking contest at the event area at the back of the Provincial Capitol; Fair Trade: Opening Windows of Opportunities for Organic Agriculture Producers and Small Farmers at the Governor's Hall; Food Safety and Quality; Book Launching; and Memories of Philippine Kitchen at the Negros Museum.

Meanwhile, the Fair Trade Center's main focus is to link up with a stable and socially-oriented market in the domestic and export level for the centrifugal sugar of small producers in Negros. This measure hopes to accelerate rural poverty reduction in the province and put up a safety net that will mitigate the impact of zero tariffs on imported sugar by 2015.

Fair Trade market in 2010 brought a total of 111,600 metric tons of sugar from 16 countries, 95 percent of which are centrifugal while 4 percent are organic non-centrifugal. The sales totaled €23.7 million (P1.25 billion), aside from fair trade premiums to farmers worth €4.48 million (P236 million).

For 2012, there is a further increase in orders, with new buyers such as Morrisons and Maltesers and other confectionery producers.

Negros produces 60 percent of the nation's 2.3 million metric tons of sugar every year. At least 79 percent of sugar producers in Negros are small producers owning 5 hectares and below, mostly agrarian reform beneficiaries in the province that has a viable volume for the fair trade market.

If a large portion of its production is brought to the fair trade market, it will generate assured profits and capability-building funds for small producers that could mitigate the 2015 Zero Tariff effects, a fair trade statement said. (TDE)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on November 22, 2012.

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