SEARCA to support Quezon coconut industry development

5 August 2020

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) is set to support the coconut industry development plan of Quezon Province in the areas of value addition to coconut products, linkages of the farmers to the market, and farmers’ organization.

This was discussed in a meeting among representatives of SEARCA and the Quezon provincial government to level off expectations and determine the next steps to collaborate to realize the Quezon provincial government’s vision of “a market-driven coconut industry with empowered and resilient farmers engaging in profitable coconut-based enterprises contributing to inclusive and sustainable agricultural development.”

SEARCA Program Head for Research and Thought Leadership Pedcris M. Orencio said the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPA)-Quezon presented its program which aims to establish provincial nurseries for high-yielding coconut varieties, replace senile coconut trees with high-yielding varieties, and increase coconut productivity through proper cultural management and fertilization.

Moreover, the program also has provisions to increase farmers’ income through crop diversification and intercropping (coffee, cacao, banana) and to improve the economic conditions of coconut farmers through engaging into value-adding activities and enterprise establishment.

According to the OPA-Quezon, its agricultural development framework includes interventions along the whole value chain.

SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio said SEARCA intends to support the development of Quezon’s coconut industry through technical assistance, capacity building, knowledge management, and linkages and networks using the gains of its project on piloting and upscaling effective models of inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development (ISARD).

He added that the implementation model will be customized based on the gaps and needs in the project sites and translated into development strategies.

Orencio said a guidebook that illustrates the step-by-step process for setting up models of ISARD in communities will be used to scale out SEARCA’s implementation model in Quezon.

He explained that the guidebook contains the research outputs, lessons learned, challenges and recommendations from the ISARD pilot project, and will be a reference for scaling the project across different crops and various locations in the country and other parts of Southeast Asia.

Orencio said the guidebook promotes the sustainability strategy of combining the strengths of the academe as source of experts and technologies—through partner state universities and colleges—and the local government units as provider of public goods and extension services.


29 June 2020  SEARCA unveils new strategy to push agricultural innovation

The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) kicks off the implementation of its Eleventh Five-Year Plan (11FYP) on 1 July 2020. The new strategic plan sets out the principles and objectives that will guide SEARCA as it moves towards Accelerating Transformation Though Agricultural Innovation (ATTAIN).

“Our new development strategy was shaped by SEARCA’s desire to contribute to the transformation of farmers who are stuck in the belief that farming is limited to production, into new farmers operating in a modern agriculture ecology, that is Agriculture 4.0,” SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio said.

For the next five years, SEARCA commits to accelerate transformation that elevates the quality of life of agricultural families through sustainable livelihoods and access to modern networks and innovative markets.

“Transformation efforts will focus on policy, institutional, social, and technological innovations,” Gregorio explained.

He said the new SEARCA strategy focuses on the following priority areas: agri-business models for increased productivity and income, sustainable farming systems and natural resource management, food and nutrition security, transformational leadership for agricultural and rural development (ARD), gender and youth engagement in ARD, enhanced ARD towards climate resilience, and eco-health/one-health applications to ARD.

The new plan will be articulated through SEARCA’s core programs on Education and Collective Learning (ECL), Research and Thought Leadership (RTL), and Emerging Innovation for Growth (EIG). ECL comprises graduate scholarship and institutional development and training for development. RTL leads research for development, policy and program advisory, and the agriculture, forestry, and natural resources knowledge platforms. EIG will provide farmers and farming families wider access to innovative products and services as well as business models for increased productivity and income through open innovation and agri-incubation; knowledge and technology transfer; and project development, monitoring and evaluation.

SEARCA’s development agenda aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that address global challenges to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

Gregorio said SEARCA will contribute and allocate resources toward the achievement of SDG 2: Zero Hunger; SDG 4: Quality Education; SDG 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure; SDG 13: Climate Action; and SDG 17: Partnerships. He explained that these SDGs directly align with SEARCA’s mandate and focus with greater emphasis on partnerships. He added that as SEARCA tries to achieve these five SDGs, it also touches SDG 1: No Poverty; SDG 2: Gender Equality; and SDG 12: Responsible Consumption and Production.

The new SEARCA development strategy was shaped following comprehensive consultations with the Center’s partners, alumni, staff, and external stakeholders.

Gregorio said “SEARCA governance shall bring about greater participation among the member countries and will pursue gender balance and inclusion of the younger generations in order to draw from a more diverse pool of culture and ideas toward meaningful teamwork in pursuit of its mission.”


Private sector elevates to Duterte, Senate, House pleading against DA’s
‘alacrity’ to give in to massive imports to feign ‘empty concern’ for consumers

June 24, 2020

The private sector has elevated to President Duterte, Senate and Lower House a pleading against the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) “alacrity” to give in to massive imports to “feign empty concern for consumers” and abject refusal to find World Trade Organization (WTO)-sanctioned “trade remedies.”

With an expanding number of agriculture sector advocates for reforms, the United Broilers and Raisers Association (UBRA), along with 25 signatories, advanced their open letter to Malacanang and the legislature. This amid DA’s silence to eight radical reforms that will uplift not only consumers’ welfare, but also Filipino farmers’.

It is counterintuitive that DA uses consumer protection to rationalize surging imports.

Illogically, it fails to address the flagrant disconnect between price of chicken in supermarkets and wet markets and the farmgate price received as compensation of farmers.

As chicken farmgate price reeled down to P30 per kilo during the lockdown, price of chicken reaching consumers remained high at P150 to P170 per kilo during the Covid 19 ECQ (enhanced community quarantine). It indicates traders and importers are the ones taking advantage of windfall profit from price difference. It is neither consumers, nor farmers.

Unfortunately, this case applies even to other agricultural commodities such as rice.

“This behavior (alacrity to import) is always couched in a supposed concern for consumers. The DA, however, has never effectively addressed the disconnect between farmgate prices and retail prices. Thus, it is an empty concern,” said UBRA in its letter to President Duterte.

UBRA testifies to this alacrity to import via a recorded video on a meeting with DA-Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) on May 27, 2020 (link attached).

With the Covid 19 crisis, revenue sources the Philippines depends upon—Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and business process outsourcing (BPO)—are proving to be unstable.

It is thus urgent to prioritize agriculture.

“For decades, OFW remittances, BPO revenues, and tourism have propped up our economy at great sacrifice by the young men and women, especially millennials, who work in these fields. These are now challenged not only by Covid 19 but also by trends that may undermine its sustainability,” according to UBRA.

“Other countries are seeking to provide work for their own people. BPOs are threatened by digitalization which includes artificial intelligence, and robotics. Tourism’s horizon is murky in the near and medium term. A resilient economy with a population our size needs agriculture and manufacturing.”

Desperate about the neglect of agriculture for many years, the UBRA officials led by Gregorio A. San Diego Jr, chairman, and Lawyer Elias Jose M. Inciong, president, said DA never had a “long term commitment” to the sector.

It has never at all implemented the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA, RA 8435 of 1997).

“The institution supposed to lead the sector to success, the DA, has only resorted to what Mckinsey & Company calls ‘short termism,’” said San Diego and Inciong. UBRA is supported by farm private sector from the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) led by Danilo V. Fausto.

“Unlike other countries which have had success in agriculture as members of the WTO, the DA has consistently used our trade commitments as an excuse to stand aside and let stakeholders be damaged by imports from countries with heavily subsidized agricultural systems.”

In a sigh of hopelessness, the poultry raisers asked, “How come DA has never shown interest in finding out how other countries managed to protect their agricultural sector for the long term? Every administration has committed to develop the sector but the results have been dismal.”

Knowing Filipino farmers are poor, government must act speedily in implementing trade remedies once world market points to dumping of cheap, bulkier volume of imports that render more farmers impoverished. Instead, it speedily resorts to importation.

Trade remedies such as special safeguards measure (SSG) are sanctioned by WTO and the Safeguard Measures Act (RA8800) to “protect domestic industries …from increased imports which cause or threaten to cause serious injury to domestic industries.”

“The DA, must be able to intervene especially in extreme cases of oversupply brought about by Covid 19 pandemic or (when there is) abnormally low international commodity prices,” said UBRA.

“The government acts with alacrity when supply is tight by resorting to importation. In times of oversupply, should not the government act just as fast by stopping importation or reducing supply by some other mechanism?”

Signatories to the letter to Malacanang include Phil. Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc (Danilo V. Fausto); Nat’l. Federation of Hog Farmers (Chester Warren Y. Tan); Phil. Assn of Feedmillers Inc. (Stephanie Nicole S. Garcia); Phil Maize Federation Inc. (Roger V. Navarro); Phil. College of Poultry Practitioners (Dr.Cesar F. POlicarpio); Phil. Veterinary Drug Assn (Dr. Eugenio P. Mende); Phil Eggboard Assn (Atty. Irwin M. Ambal); PVDA Found Inc. (Danilo A. Sanchez); and Phil. Veterinary Medical Assn (Dr. Corazon P. Occidental).

The rest are Simon Enterprises INc. (Tita Chua); Phil. Assn of Breeder Layer Inc (Leopoldo Mendoza); Phil. Eggboard Producers Coop (Arthur Baron); PROPORK (Edwin G. Chen); Phil. Poultry Integrated Alliance (Peter So); Paritas Trading Corp. (Eric Bailon); ALDEC (Cristina Villaluz); Apache Mountain Ranch (Cedric Sycip); Bettina Farm (Ricardo B. Talento); Bounty Agro Ventures Inc. (Ronald Mascarinas); Chicumi Farms (Ricardo C. Clarin Jr); and Chicken EssentialsPhils Inc (Marvin Mendoza).

Here are their eight-point “Call for Reforms by the Stakeholders in the Poultry and Livestock Sectors to the Executive and Legislature:”

1. The urgent need for decentralization of functions. There should be check and balance. Everything is lodged with the BAI. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should be involved in the issuance of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Import Clearance (SPS IC). Agencies like the Department of Science and Technology and the Philippine Statistics Authority should do gathering, analysis, and publication of data so that stakeholders can make informed business decisions. Presently, everyone is blind, especially the government, in terms of both local and international data.

2. Reformattting of the SPS IC to simplify and facilitate collection of tariffs and duties and their reporting.

3. Address under-evaluation through WTO-allowed methods and the regular comparison and publication of the composition and volume of exports by country of origin as against the data of BAI and Bureau of Customs. This minimizes misdeclaration of products.

4. Conduct studies on trade remedies not only for poultry and livestock but for the entire agri-fisheries sector. What did other countries do which encouraged a commitment for the long term from government and stakeholders?

5. Establish confidence in the trading system of chicken meat by addressing the alleged abuses in Customs Bonded Warehouse (CBW) 0% tariff privileges. The BAI and NMIS (National Meat Inspection System) have not presented any data on this for years. UBRA has just asked DTI this data.

6.Construct cold-chain-ready quarantine facilities at the Customs border so that inspection can be done before the payment of tariffs and duties. The current so-called 2nd Border Control does not work. The system is below international standards and has allowed the entry of diseases such as ASF (African swine flu), bird flu, and the smuggling of prohibited pork and poultry products from China.

7. Support the corn sector to enable poultry and livestock sectors’ access to affordable yellow corn for feeds when there are no corn harvests.

8. Address the disconnect between farmgate and retail prices either through a more effective enforcement of the Price Act and a program of consumer subsidies similar to the program provided in the series of Farm Bills in the United States.

“The reform agenda is necessary to avoid a drastic and involuntary cut in production caused by heavy losses. There will be a domino impact on the feed milling industry, corn farmers, rice farmers by way of their rice bran, producers of coco oil, molasses, fish meal, suppliers of soya bean meal, mineral sources, and veterinary products.”

The same malevolent effect will be on the “agri-processing of the value chain such as cutting and marination all the way to agriservices like food service outlets, groceries, cold storage, transportation, warehousing, packaging, and financing.” End


1. Joint Statement sent to Pres. Duterte, Senate, Lower House

2. Link to Video on Poultry sector’s issues amid Covid 19 (May 27, 2020):

3. PHOTO: UBRA President Elias Jose M. Inciong (fifth from left, middle row) and Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Fisheries President Danilo V. Fausto (fifth from left, foreground