Private group sets programs to improve food production-A A +A
By Mia A. Aznar
Thursday, May 1, 2014
NOTING “enormous potential” in agriculture and food production, a privately-funded program hopes to improve the income of the sector in some areas of Cebu and Negros by improving competitiveness and food supply chain through training and qualification programs.
Chato Cadorna, agriculture coordinator of the OurFood (Optimizing and Upscaling Roles in the Food Supply Chain) Program of the AFOS Foundation, said between 40 percent and 60 percent of micro, small and medium enterprises belong to the sector of agriculture and food but only contribute 10 percent to the country’s total output.
At a consultation workshop for the food and agriculture sector in preparation for the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Economic Community, Cadorna said the integration poses opportunities for the sector to have access to a greater market and cheaper raw materials.
However, these are not without their challenges. Farms, she said, have trouble with documentation and recording of farm-related activities, which are important requirements of financing institutions and certifying bodies.
Cadorna also noted that they have difficulty producing bigger volumes of premium quality crops while adopting Philippine good agriculture practices and minimizing the use of chemical inputs. While they hope to be able to transition the farms they are working with from conventional practices to organic farming, Cadorna admitted it will take awhile before farms can move in this direction because it will also affect the high demand for produce.
Farms also have limited access to capital needed to finance their production and constructed facilities needed to improve productivity. With farms located in remote areas, farmers face challenges in transporting their harvested produce to consolidation areas and to the markets.
For food processors, Cadorna noted a lack in motivation to be certified with standards accreditation. They also face the problem of costly packaging materials available locally. She also said many have a poor knowledge and understanding of internationally-accepted labeling requirements and have a poor attitude towards product innovation and development.
With these problems, Cadorna said local food processors face greater competition in terms of price and quality from its Asean neighbors.
At the workshop, stakeholders noted the need for wider information dissemination, saying more forums and discussions should be held to reach more stakeholders.
They also cited the need for branding local products. An example cited was how New Zealand marketed its kiwi fruit. Many believe this can be done with the Philippine mango because of its distinct taste that other mango-growing countries have tried but failed to produce.
The discussions of the workshop will be presented in a forum as part of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Cebu Business Month in June.
CBM chairman Felix Tiukinhoy said the forum was a venue for stakeholders in Central Visayas to “chart the course for agriculture and food.”
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 02, 2014.