18 August 2021
To help boost and reboot the Philippine livestock, dairy, and poultry subsectors, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and its partners are currently undertaking an International Benchmarking Study of the Philippine Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Industries co-developed and funded by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
SEARCA is implementing the collaborative study with the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and selected Asian research institutions.
Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director, said the study has been deemed necessary and timely as the Philippine government’s current agricultural initiatives and policies are skewed towards rice and corn.
He said the study aims to determine comparative advantages of the Philippines and other Asian countries in terms of costs, production management, and marketing practices. It will also identify and analyze key enabling policies that would strengthen the livestock, dairy, and poultry subsectors.
The benchmarking study has local and international components. Given its wide network in Asia, SEARCA leads the international component and has partnered with three research institutions, namely: Peking University, China; Kasetsart University, Thailand; and the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD), Vietnam. The local component of the benchmarking study is led by PIDS.
The project team for the international component is composed of selected staff from SEARCA’s Research and Thought Leadership Department (RTLD) including Dr. Pedcris M. Orencio, Program Head; Ms. Bernice Anne D. De Torres, Program Specialist; Ms. Rochella B. Lapitan, Senior Program Associate; Ms. Ruth Jazrel M. Bandong, Project Associate; and Mr. Xyrus Godfrey B. Capiña, Output-Based Project Associate; as well as industry experts from the Philippines, China, Thailand, and Vietnam, namely, Dr. Liborio S. Cabanilla, Cross-Country Study Leader; Dr. Jikun Huang, China Country Study Leader; Dr. Somkiert Prasanpanich, Thailand Country Study Leader; and Dr. Tran Cong Thang, Vietnam Country Study Leader, respectively. The local component, on the other hand, is led by Dr. Roehlano M. Briones, Senior Research Fellow of PIDS.
Dr. Gregorio said the results are expected to contribute to the development of national policies in support of the livestock, poultry, and dairy industries.
The study is expected to run until October 2021.
Filipinos can now reap the benefits of biotech crops
The Philippine agriculture sector achieved two much-awaited milestones with the approval of Golden Rice for commercial production and the approval of BT eggplant for food, feed, or for processing (FFP) in July 2021. This makes Filipinos closer to harvesting the projected benefits of these biotech crops soon.
Following its approval for FFP in December 2019, Golden Rice has been granted a biosafety permit for commercial propagation by the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI). This allows the DA-Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to proceed with the production of Golden Rice on a commercial scale for human consumption. This makes Golden Rice the first genetically engineered rice in South and Southeast Asia to be authorized for commercial propagation.
Golden Rice intends to complement existing interventions to address vitamin A deficiency (VAD). VAD is a serious public health problem affecting 250 million people worldwide, primarily children and pregnant women. It contains beta-carotene (provitamin A, a plant pigment that the body converts into vitamin A as needed). This is especially beneficial for countries such as the Philippines and Bangladesh where rice is a staple food since beta carotene-enriched Golden Rice can supply up to 30-50% of the estimated average vitamin A requirement.
The next step in the process is seeking varietal registration from the National Seed Industry Council (NSIC). To ensure that Golden Rice will be accessible for Filipino farmers, PhilRice along with the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) are developing Golden Rice versions of existing rice varieties with the same yield, pest resistance, and grain qualities.
In the same week, DA-BPI has approved Bt eggplant event ‘EE-1’ for direct use as food, feed, or for processing (FFP) having undergone a strict biosafety assessment under the DOST-DA-DENR-DOH-DILG Joint Department Circular (JDC) No. 1, Series of 2016. The DA-BPI issued Biosafety Permit No. 21-078FFP to the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).
Led by scientists from the UPLB-Institute of Plant Breeding (UPLB-IPB), Bt eggplant was developed using modern biotechnology techniques by introducing a gene from a naturally occurring soil bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis, to the common eggplant. This makes it resistant to the eggplant fruit and shoot borer (EFSB), which is considered the most damaging pest of eggplant. The Bt gene is harmless to other beneficial insects, including pollinators, as well as humans and animals.
Subsequently, Bt eggplant will need commercial propagation approval for environmental safety assessment before it is released for public consumption. With lesser cost for pesticides and labor and increase in production, Filipino farmers are projected to gain a net increase benefit of around PHP 50,000 (USD 909) per hectare by planting Bt eggplant compared to the current eggplant variety.
SEARCA Director and National Academy of Science and Technology of the Philippines Academician Glenn B. Gregorio congratulates the research teams focused on developing Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant.
“As a fellow plant breeder, and geneticist, I share the joy in achieving these milestones or I may say gold medals for the Philippines. This does not only bring the benefits of these biotech crops closer to many Filipinos, it also opens the door for more work in finding safe, effective, sustainable, and innovative solutions to our society’s pressing problems. SEARCA remains committed to working with them and with various partners in making highly credible, science-based information on agricultural innovations like Golden Rice and Bt Eggplant available and understandable for our stakeholders – for farmers and consumers in areas that need it the most,” Gregorio said.
30 July 2021
SEARCA’s Outlook for the Philippine Agriculture Sector in Second Half of 2021
By all indications, the performance of the Philippine agriculture sector in the first half of 2021 points to a high probability of maintained positive growth over the rest of the year. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have noted with keen interest how the agriculture sector has managed to achieve a positive growth rate. However, the challenge of surpassing a 2% growth rate of the volume of agriculture production may possibly remain very elusive given the number of systemic challenges besetting the agriculture of the country. Overall, what remains is the need to accelerate the transformation of the sector into a dynamic and highly productive sector through long-term institutional and programmatic innovative interventions to make the agricultural food system responsive to food security and poverty reduction targets.
Looking into the macro-level indicators, it is clear that the Philippine government performed fairly well given the peculiar challenges brought about by the pandemic and natural hazards. The positive growth of the sector during the past years is surely a noteworthy achievement. Productivity indicators could have significantly plunged if no necessary and immediate interventions in response to the pandemic were put in place.
However, the long years of concern on the need to increase the Gross Value Added (GVA) of the agriculture sector and the country’s overall development remains. While we celebrate the success of the Philippine government in implementing programs and projects to help boost the agriculture sector of the country, what we need is a more science-based and forward-looking structure, institutional, and operational reforms in the agriculture sector that must be sustained across different administrations. In the second half of 2021, what is crucial are sustained mechanisms to reinforce a number of its institutional and policy reforms. Foremost of which is the strong political will being shown when the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) that would have wide-ranging effects in the utilization of market-oriented policies in the sector in the coming years.
FISHERY SECTOR SHOWS PROMISE BUT MORE INTEGRATED INFRASTRUCTURE SUPPORT IS NEEDED. The positive growth in the fishery sector could be further maximized with improved logistics and transport system to increase competitiveness. For years, the Philippines would benefit from sustained investments on integrated infrastructure system that lowers production and transportation costs across the different supply chains related to the fisheries management areas (FMAs) in the country. Of urgent concern is the need to enjoin private sector’s investment in cold storage facilities where various technological adaptations may be applied given that various designs have been made by more advanced countries on this aspect. This is priority given that the fishing communities remain to be among the impoverished sectors in the country.
AS NATURAL HAZARDS AND OTHER DISRUPTIONS ARE BECOMING COMMONPLACE, THE AGRICULTURE SECTOR NEEDS TO TRANSFORM AS RESILIENT SYSTEMS. Given the significant impact of typhoons and floods to the crop sector as experienced in 2020 or even in the years prior, agricultural farming systems must be resilient. This clearly requires increased percentage of Filipino farmers having internalized a decision-support system that would make them more agile and effective in responding to natural hazards and other potential external disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic. These include improved access to climatic and weather data, stress-tolerant crop varieties, good agricultural practices, crop insurance system, extension system and modern technological support, and innovative financial capital.
LIVESTOCK AND POULTRY SECTORS NEED SYSTEMIC, LONG-TERM INTERVENTIONS TO MAKE IT SUSTAINABLE. As threats like the COVID-19 pandemic and a string of zoonotic diseases remain, comprehensive evaluation using One Health/EcoHealth framework is needed to operationalize how the livestock and poultry sector could achieve its triple bottom line of profit, people, and planet. Specifically, support is needed for improved access to better surveillance system, integrated biosecurity measures, and technology-based operation system. Consumers are likewise enjoined to be more aware and supportive of livestock and poultry products that conform with higher quality standards.
MORE SUSTAINED SUPPORT FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROVINCE-LED AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES EXTENSION SYSTEMS (PAFES). In light of the Mandanas Ruling, there is a need for an expedited increase of the capacity of the local government units (LGUs) to implement agricultural development programs that must be technically sound and with high-level of social acceptance and participation. Hence, a more sustained support for the implementation of PAFES is needed to empower our LGUs.