IT SEEMS the solution to make farmers earn more nowadays is that they should stop being just farmers and start being agriculture entrepreneurs by exploring value-added solutions to farm products.
This was the resounding message of the 3rd Agribusiness Support for Promotion and Investment in Regional Expositions (Aspire) at Robinsons Starmills in the City of San Fernando.
The next stage of evolution in the agricultural field that farmers should be willing to embrace is agriculture entrepreneurship, according to Department of Agriculture (DA) Assistant Secretary for Agri-business Andrew Villacorta.
To help farmers with the necessary know-how, network and resources to become businessmen themselves, the DA had been organizing the Aspire program for farmers to help them benchmark. Aspire is a partnership project of the DA, Department of Trade and Industry and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).
Project Aspire includes production support, enterprise development and industry support, investment promotion and market promotion and development as its four driving components. Aspire was designed by the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS).
The components of the programs are: production support, enterprise development and industry support, agribusiness investments and promotions, and market promotion and development.
Villacorta said Aspire aims to develop the capacity of local farmers and fisherfolk, as well as MSMEs to optimize market opportunities, promotion and advocacy of investment opportunities to encourage agribusiness investments, and build strong partnerships and convergence with other government and private sector industry groups.
Government agencies like the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry have been pushing for value adding measures on local farm products. Initiatives on value-added products have covered coconut, copra, banana, mango and even rice to name a few.
Villacorta said that “value-added” means that products are processed and produced with better quality.
Instead of just producing fruits, farmers and farm cooperatives can start producing candies and dried fruits.
Coconut farmers can explore the potential of the coco industry has a huge market for coconut farmers since these coconut fibers are used as geo-nets, which help prevent landslides. Coconut water too is an emerging product with a growing demand in the export market. The DA added that farmers can venture into the food industry for coconuts like creating coconut oils.
Value adding also extends to fisheries. In fact, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has introduced a value-added fish processing technology just this March to local fisher folks in the country. The technology shows growers how to process dried and marinated tilapia products.
The DOST said that farmers can now start “selling processed tilapia products, with their extended shelf-life, rather than just fresh fish.”
The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) has also been doing research to help in value adding measures for rice. PhilRice’s 2016 consumer-driver market study had developed the Brown Rice Cracker-Ice Cream Sandwich (BRICS) made from fresh buffalo’s milk sandwiched in crackers made from brown rice flour.
Despite of all the available technology and research on value added products, there are still few farmers who have adapted value-added measures on their farm products.
Villacorta admits that value adding technology and access to trainings and similar programs require government support and funding. He added that while government has enough programs for trainings as well as provide adequate access to loans, farmers are not yet brave enough to pursue agri-business ventures.
“We need to encourage more farmers. Programs and access to funding are there but we have few takers,” Villacorta said, adding that farm cooperatives and farmers must step up their game to be able to make it big in the agri-business sector.