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Pio A. Javier

Healthy food and environment adherents drive organic agriculture

GROWING HEALTH and environment conscious consumers stimulate interest in natural and organic products. Their preferences are shifting toward safe and organically grown foods. The premium price of organic products is also attracting producers.

GROWING HEALTH and environment conscious consumers stimulate interest in natural and organic products. Their preferences are shifting toward safe and organically grown foods. The premium price of organic products is also attracting producers.

The potential of organic markets in the Philippines is strong. But there are specific requirements to ensure organic products' integrity and suitable marketing strategies need to be explored. Institutional structures and other support systems must be in place.

PCARRD sees an opportunity to empower relevant agencies to promote organic agriculture. It has jointly sponsored the "Trainers' Training Course on Organic Agriculture Development in the Philippines" along with Philippine Development Assistance Program, Inc., and Organic Certification Center of the Philippines last June 19-23.

Twelve participants from non-government organizations joined 11 others from the government in the weeklong training held at Arisabel Clubhouse in Los Baños, Laguna.

Dr. Edwin C. Villar, PCARRD Livestock Research Division director in welcome remarks cited the importance of addressing all aspects of organic agriculture to make it work for individual farmers and the economy. He also recognized the initiatives of NGOs in promoting the organic movement.

The training covered six sessions. Dr. Digna O. Manzanilla, PCARRD Agricultural Resources Management Research Division director provided an overview of organic agriculture. The country's poverty situation and the role of organic agriculture in addressing food insecurity and chronic poverty were also presented.

Roel R. Ravanera of Asia-Japan Partnership Network for Poverty Reduction talked on project-related experiences on enhancing capacities on sustainable agriculture toward poverty reduction.

"In Asia, the area under organic management is comparatively small," explained Jacqueline Alleje of the International Federation of Organic Movements. Total organic area in Asia is 4.1 million hectares managed by almost 130,000 farmers. The Asian organic food market is valued at about US$750 million, she said.

Alleje said that in the Philippines, organic agriculture industry is still in its infancy, with very little reliable data on domestic market and estimates of total enterprises engaged in it.

Certified organic products include rice, vegetables, sugar, banana, and coconut. Export-bound organic products include muscovado sugar, banana chips, coconut cooking oil, virgin coconut oil, desiccated coconut, and dried banana leaves.

PDAP president Jerry Pacturan also said the organic market in the Philippines is growing at a significant rate of 10-20% yearly.

Pacturan explained that the organic farming system also favors small and marginal farmers because the processes involved require fewer external inputs. While it may be labor-intensive, this could support rural employment and social justice through fair trade. The premium price of organic products generally has a margin of 20-30%, which means higher income for farmers.

Meanwhile, crop production techniques, principles, elements, and methodologies on soil management; non-pesticide methods of managing pests; and insights on the process of shifting to organic agriculture were presented by Benguet State University president Rogelio Colting, UPLB's Pio Javier, and OCCP's Antonio Santos.

Department of Trade and Industry's Teresita Oyson also explained the value chain analysis as an important aspect in developing marketing strategies for organic products. Other real-life organic market insights were discussed by Rosalina Tan of Galactic Resources Development Center, and Rene Guarin of Upland Marketing Foundation.

OCCP's Lani Limpin Oganic talked about standards and certification requirements and shed light on doubts about issues on determining items that were organically produced.

Dr. Gina Pangga of UPLB, and Dominciano Ramos of Bureau of Soils and Water Management Research presented R&D, extension support systems, and extension approaches in the Philippine context including the DA Agri-Kalikasan Program.

Participants went on field trip to Brgy. Tinurik in Batangas and Tagaytay that provided case studies and practical experiences on how organic farming system and business enterprise can be established; the requirements and constraints that need to be addressed to sustain operations; and the challenges to promote the business and the organic industry.

The formulation of re-entry plans to ensure that participants will be able to apply the learnings gained, transfer the knowledge, and expand the information flow on organic agriculture capped the training.

-S&T Post, Vol. XXIV, 2nd Quarter 2006

Interviewed by: Ofelia F. Domingo, Science Research Specialist II, PCARRD