Archive for March, 2009

Big demand, small supply Farmers urge to go organic – group

FARMERS should take advantage of the increasing demand for organic food such as rice and vegetables by shifting to organic farming, a consortium of nongovernment organization said.

Citing newspaper reports, Lawyer Efren Moncupa, lead convenor of Go Organic! Philippines said an increasing number of Filipinos are now becoming more aware of and more responsible about their health by eating healthy, fresh and organic dishes.

The report said that from an estimated 95 hectares planted with organic rice in 1997, the area increased to 14,538 hectares in 2004. It is estimated that there are now at least 36,709 organic-rice farmers in the country.

While saying that the organic industry is indeed still small and in its infancy stage until now, Moncupa said more and more farmers are switching or shifting to organic farming.

“Now is the best time to shift to organic farming,” Moncupa said, adding that by going organic, farmers can actually reduce production costs and increase income while consumers can be assured of a healthier food.

According to Moncupa, the report cited studies showing that diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and some cancer-related diseases are caused by eating unhealthy foods.

Dr. Susan Balingit of the Slow Food Movement, which advocates healthy lifestyle, said Filipinos can stay healthy, active and young by eating organically-grown food, or food produced in farms without those harmful chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Balingit was one of the guests during the Press Lunch organized by Go Organic! Philippines during the last day of the 5th Eco-Products International Fair (EPIF) held at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City, wherein guests were treated to a sumptuous organic lunch which included native lechon, adobo sa gata using free range chicken, mushroom soup, organic vegetable salad, red rice, pritong hito.

Go Organic! Philippines led by the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and the La Liga Policy Institute (LLPI) is currently taking the lead in implementing the Organic Fields Support Program – Phase 1, a partnership project with the Department of Agriculture led by Sec. Arthur C. Yap and the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM).

The program, which aims to promote organic farming in the Philippines, is now considered a key strategy in achieving the country’s rice self-sufficiency targets, through proven effective organic systems and technologies, and use of natural or organic fertilizer instead of the expensive agrochemicals used in conventional farming.

Go Organic! Philippines is currently training 600 farmers on these sustainable agriculture practices in six pilot cities and towns in Luzon. The training, which started in December last year will be completed at the end of April.

Once completed, the training will provide the farmers with the basic tool in organic farming such as knowledge in organic fertilizer and organic pesticide production.

A former agrarian reform undersecretary, Moncupa underscored the need for more technical support at the field level and marketing at the consumer end.

Technical support and marketing, he said, are important to boost organic-rice production and move the organic-rice industry into the mainstream market.

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Group pitching calls for massive cultivation, export of cancer-fighting black rice

ORGANIC farming advocates are now pitching calls for the massive cultivation of colored rice, particularly black rice, hoping to make a crack at the global organic food market by supplying unique rice varieties from the Philippines.

Also called the Forbidden rice and Obama rice, the aromatic black rice, which is found in Asia, is rich in phytochemicals that fights cancer. As suggested by its name, it is believed that black rice was first cultivated in China, especially for the Emperor, whose food is forbidden among the royal subjects.

In the Philippine folklore, it is believed that black rice is the food of demigods.

Recently, black rice was introduced in the local market and because of the demand, the cultivation of black rice is starting to gain ground in Luzon, says Jun Garde, a member of the Pambansang Inisyatibo ng Pagbibinhi at Likas-Kayang Pagsasaka sa Pilipinas, Inc or Pabinhi Pilipinas.

There are five differently-colored rice varieties other than white – brown, red, pink, violet and black – which are being cultivated in the Philippines. However, these indigenous rice varieties are rarely sold in the market, as they are usually consumed by the farmers themselves.

“We are confident that black rice and other colored rice varieties will eventually be exported by the Philippines to other countries, considering the demand for healthier food that are organically grown, or grown without the use of agrochemicals,” he said, adding that there is a current initiative to make black rice and other rice varieties more visible in the local market, as well as in supermarkets.

The price of colored rice is slightly higher than ordinary well-milled rice. Black rice is sold between P60 to P120 kilos in some specialty stores.

Through RR Trade, the marketing and alternative trading arm affiliated with the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM), is forging ties with a big chain of supermarkets for the supply of black rice.

Black rice is cooked longer than ordinary rice, but is aromatic and sticky.

In Tarlac, Garde said around 20 hectares are planted to black rice; 15 hectares in Bulacan, and five hectares in Nueva Ecija. It is also cultivated in some parts of Baler, Aurora, Isabela, Mindoro, and Bataan, Garde, a seed collector said.

Garde has his own seed bank of indigenous rice varieties, including 75 improved varieties of black rice.

He said Pabinhi members are trying to massively produce planting materials which they will distribute to farmers at a reasonable price for the next cropping season.

The improved black rice, like the other indigenous or colored rice varieties, can adapt to poor soil condition. However, he said instead of six months, they can now be harvested after 110 days, just like the ordinary rice that were improved through hybridization.

Garde is a national trainor of Go Organic! Philippines, which conducts the Season-Long Training in six pilot towns and cities in Luzon under the Organic FIELDS Support Program Phase 1.

Go Organic! Philippines led by PRRM and the La Liga Policy Institute (LLPI) is currently taking the lead in implementing the OFSP. OFSP, which promotes organic farming in the Philippines is a partnership project with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM).

When black rice is used in desserts, it is sometimes cooked with a mixture of coconut milk, sugar, and water to form sweet, sticky and pudding-like rice in many Asian countries.

In the Bicol Region, specifically in the province of Albay, colored rice is used to cook traditional Filipino food or snacks such as puto, puto bungbong, bibingka, suman, and kalamay.

‘Organic farming will make rice cheaper’

WHILE saying organically-produced agricultural products and byproducts command higher price, the price of rice, the country’s staple food, may eventually go down with farmers benefiting from lower production cost as they start to produce their own organic fertilizer.

In an interview during the “Go Organic!” TV program on NBN 4 Lawyer Efren Moncupa, lead convenor of Go Organic! Philippines said the price of organically-produced agriculture products should be lower than those produced using inorganic fertilizer.

Moncupa, a former agrarian reform undersecretary, reiterated his appeal to lawmakers to prioritize bills that promotes organic farming in the Philippines, which he said will be both beneficial to farmers and consumers.

He noted that some grocery stores have already put up an organic section where organically-grown produce, such as rice, but the price is relatively higher compared to others.

“The price of organically-grown produce should be lower because the production cost is much lower,” Moncupa said.

Farmer-leader Jaime “Ka Jimmy” Tadeo of Paragos-Pilipinas echoes Moncupa’s sentiment.

“Since production cost is lower, the price of rice should be cheaper,” Tadeo, the spokesperson of Go Organic! Philippines said.

The commercial price of organic fertilizer is P250 to P350 per 50-kilo bag compared to the price of inorganic fertilizer currently pegged at P1,500 to P2,000 per 50-kilo bag. A one-hectare rice farm requires around eight to 10 bags of inorganic fertilizer. On the other hand, the organic fertilizer requirement during the first year of transition is at 60 bags and diminishes to as low as 30 bags once soil fertility is restored.

“If the farmers produce their own organic fertilizers the cost is even cheaper. Lower cost of organic fertilizer inputs, means production cost is much lower. Eventually, farmers will be able to sell their produce at a lower price,” Tadeo said.

Go Organic! Philippines, a consortium of nongovernment organizations led by the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and the La Liga Policy Institute (LLPI), is taking the lead in implementing Phase I of the Organic FIELDS Support Program (OFSP).

This is in preparation for the immediate conversion of 10 percent of the 1.9 million hectares rice fields into organic farm sites.

The program promotes sustainable agriculture through organic farming in the Philippines, particularly rice, which is now considered the government’s key strategy to achieve rice self-sufficiency target.

Director Vince Tejada of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) said more farmers in different parts of the country will benefit from the program.

Tejada said the program will continue, expanding in areas not previously covered. He revealed that a team from the BSWM is now in the process of evaluating the implementation of the project.

Asked about the program’s implementation, Tejada said: “Ayos naman. Napakaganda at masaya ang ating magsasaka dahil ngayon lang nila nalaman na kaya nilang i- implement ang organic farming sa kanilang lugar,” Tejada said.

The BSWM monitoring team visited the organic demonstration farms in the six pilot areas in Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Albay, Camarines Sur, and Mindoro recently and is expected to submit its report and recommendation.

‘Organic farming will make rice cheaper’

WHILE saying organically-produced agricultural products and byproducts command higher price, the price of rice, the country’s staple food, may eventually go down with farmers benefiting from lower production cost as they start to produce their own organic fertilizer.

In an interview during the “Go Organic!” TV program on NBN 4 Lawyer Efren Moncupa, lead convenor of Go Organic! Philippines said the price of organically-produced agriculture products should be lower than those produced using inorganic fertilizer.

Moncupa, a former agrarian reform undersecretary, reiterated his appeal to lawmakers to prioritize bills that promotes organic farming in the Philippines, which he said will be both beneficial to farmers and consumers.

While saying that once measures that actually promote organic farming, such as the establishment of a government regulatory body that will issue organic certification, is passed into law, the Philippines will be able to penetrate the global organic food market, such as the supply of organic rice.

He noted that some grocery stores have already put up an organic section where organically-grown produce, such as rice, but the price is relatively higher compared to others.

“The price of organically-grown produce should be lower because the production cost is much lower,” Moncupa said.

Farmer-leader Jaime “Ka Jimmy” Tadeo of Paragos-Pilipinas echoes Moncupa’s sentiment.

“Since production cost is lower, the price of rice should be cheaper,” Tadeo, the spokesperson of Go Organic! Philippines said.

The commercial price of organic fertilizer is P250 to P350 per 50-kilo bag compared to the price of inorganic fertilizer currently pegged at P1,500 to P2,000 per 50-kilo bag.  A one-hectare rice farm requires around eight to 10 bags of inorganic fertilizer.  On the other hand, the organic fertilizer requirement during the first year of transition is at 60 bags and diminishes to as low as 30 bags once soil fertility is restored.

“If the farmers produce their own organic fertilizers the cost is even cheaper.  Lower cost of organic fertilizer inputs, means production cost is much lower.  Eventually, farmers will be able to sell their produce at a lower price,” Tadeo said.

Go Organic! Philippines, a consortium of nongovernment organizations led by the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and the La Liga Policy Institute (LLPI), is taking the lead in implementing Phase I of the Organic FIELDS Support Program (OFSP).

This is in preparation for the immediate conversion of 10 percent of the 1.9 million hectares rice fields into organic farm sites.

The program promotes sustainable agriculture through organic farming in the Philippines, particularly rice, which is now considered the government’s key strategy to achieve rice self-sufficiency target.

Director Vince Tejada of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) said more farmers in different parts of the country will benefit from the program.

Tejada said the program will continue, expanding in areas not previously covered. He revealed that a team from the BSWM is now in the process of evaluating the implementation of the project.

Asked about the program’s implementation, Tejada said:  “Ayos naman.  Napakaganda at masaya ang ating magsasaka dahil ngayon lang nila nalaman na kaya nilang i- implement ang organic farming sa kanilang lugar,” Tejada said.

The BSWM monitoring team visited the organic demonstration farms in the six pilot areas in Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Albay, Camarines Sur, and Mindoro recently and is expected to submit its report and recommendation.

NE farmers fighting climate change through organic farming

A group of farmers in Guimba, Nueva Ecija are taking the lead in advocating organic farming to fight global warming and climate change.

Led by the Kalipunan ng mga Magbubukid para sa Likas Kayang Sakahan sa Nueva Ecija or KALIKASAN, the pro-environment farmers cited the need to shift from conventional farming to organic farming following recent occurrence of extreme weather events such as super typhoons, severe flooding and droughts.

KALIKASAN, which has been promoting organic farming in Nueva Ecija, is a partner network of the Organic FIELDS Support Program Phase 1, a project of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) which is being implemented by Go Organic! Philippines led by the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) and the La Liga Policy Institute (LLPI).

Some of its members are beefing up the pool of experts that provide training to at least 100 farmers at the organic learning farms in Barangay Subol and Barangay Triala, both in the town of Guimba.

The “worst-of-its-kinds” adverse effects of global warming and climate change have destroyed millions worth of agricultural products in the Philippines.

Nueva Ecija, the country’s rice granary, is not spared from such man-made natural disaster, according Gregorio Concepcion, 44, of Tampak Likas Magsasaka (TALIMA). TALIMA is an organization of rice farmers and a member of KALIKASAN.

He said low external input farm production proved fruitful, not only in terms of promoting environmentally-sound agricultural practice among farmers in Guimba, but more importantly, also help boost their income.

Joselito Tambalo, 45, added that the shift from conventional to organic farming has promoted a better working environment among farmers.

In organic agriculture, the restricted use of mineral fertilizers reduces the use of non-renewable energy from fossil fuels and reduces the emissions of agricultural greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous dioxide and methane, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) noted.

Moreover, mixed farming and soil building allow for increased biological activity by providing support for micro-organisms, earthworms, fungi and bacteria.

Soils enriched with fauna and flora not only increase nutrient cycling and agricultural productivity but stabilize soils against erosion and floods, detoxify ecosystems and may even help counteract climate change by restoring the “soil’s capacity for carbon sequestration”.

The positive impact of organic agriculture practices on air, soil, water and biodiversity offers opportunities to implement international environmental agreements such as the Convention on Climate Change (the Kyoto Protocol), Convention On Biological Diversity (Decision III/11 on the conservation and use of agricultural biological diversity) and national strategies to implement the Convention to Combat Desertification, FAO noted.

Guimba, Nueva Ecija Mayor Jose Francis Stevens M. Dizon is calling for the establishment of support systems for organic farming to convince more farmers to shift from conventional to organic farming.

Dizon said extending credit support to farmers who want to shift to organic farming will boost national and local government efforts to promote organic farming in the Philippines.

“We need to put up effective organic (farming) support systems to make organic farming work,” he said.

Dizon is eyeing the conversion of at least 10% of the town’s 15,096 hectares rice farm or approximately 1,501 hectares into organic farm sites.