THE Philippines has secured a number of trade commitments and agreements with South Korean businesses that could help boost income and livelihood opportunities in the local agro-fishery industries, including one partnership on corn and other animal feedstock, Secretary Alcala announced on Monday.

At a media briefing, the Agriculture chief said the Department of Agriculture and its counterpart agencies in South Korea also agreed to expand technical cooperation on food safety and sustainable food production systems.

Calling his five-day visit last week to South Korea a success, Alcala said the country can now look forward to additional exports of corn silage and other animal feedstock with the signing of a memorandum of understanding for “better business efficiency and friendly relations” between Hapchon Livestock Cooperative Union and Filipino groups Benacorn Corporation and Ploughshares Inc.

Hapchon is the Korean firm that bought the Philippines’ first-ever exports of corn silage between May and December last year.

Several South Korea-based firms also expressed strong interest in importing “Peking duck” meat and fishery products from the Philippines, Alcala said. These companies, whose officers the Secretary met on separate occasions, include Japan Food Corp., TC Foods and Dawon Corp.

“We will link them with local producers now that the Philippines has an advantage for such commodities,” he said. “For Peking duck, for instance, the country can boast of its avian influenza-free status as a guarantee.”

Alcala also met with his South Korean counterpart, Agriculture Minister Lee Dong-Phil, to thank him for South Korea’s approval six months ago of the country’s exports of poultry products through Bulacan-based Bounty Fresh Inc.

Data from the Bureau of Animal Industry shows that the country shipped some 1,000 metric tons of poultry products valued at US$37,800 to South Korea from January to February 2014.

A memorandum of agreement will also be prepared with the Korea Food Research Institute (KFRI) on traceability and food safety management, following Secretary Alcala’s meeting with KFRI chief Inkwoo Choi.

The MOA will focus on the adoption of an alert system and capacity building on risk assessment, as part of DA’s efforts to enhance local food safety standards and boost the attractiveness of Filipino agro-fishery exports in international markets.

A traceability system will allow the government and businesses to determine the source of a product or its ingredients affected by food safety issues, minimizing disruption to trade and any potential public health risks.

Other agreements or commitments secured by DA:

• Approval by the Korean Rural Development Administration of DA’s request for technical assistance in the development and dissemination of sustainable food production techniques, notably low-input, labor saving cropping technologies.

• Partnership with the Rural Research Institute to expand the coverage of an existing memorandum of understanding for the establishment of so-called Multi-Industry Clusters (MICs) to include local government units. DA proposed the development a “nucleus estate” where land will be leased and managed by a South Korean company, and with a contract growing arrangement with the farmers outside of the nucleus. LGUs, along with DA, will help facilitate the creation of clusters and farmers’ groups, among others.

Alcala was accompanied by other senior DA officials, including Assistant Secretary and concurrent national program coordinator for rice and corn Edilberto De Luna, and OIC-Assistant Secretary and concurrent Agricultural Marketing Assistance Service Director Leandro Gazmin.

Apart from meeting with senior officials and potential investors, the DA secretary and his delegation led an agribusiness investment roadshow in the city of Daegu to encourage overseas Filipino workers based in the city to put their stake in food and agriculture-related ventures back home.

“It’s really good to look at how Korea was able to make farming profitable, with its sustained agricultural productivity and technology innovation,” he said. “‘Di naman po pala tayo nagkamali na prayoridad ng Pangulong Aquino at ng DA ang pagtuon ng pansin sa mechanization ng ating production at post-harvest facilities, bilang tugon sa pangangailangan ng pagtatas ng production cost ng pagtatanim sa ating bansa.” (PR)