Wake Up, Philippines!

Best investment option now is agriculture – consultant

Posted in Business, Investment by Erineus on February 24, 2009

Updated February 22, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Filipinos who pursue dreams of affluence and economic independence may need to look at a particular sector that has long been ignored but otherwise shows significant opportunities for prosperity.

They may not know it, but investing in the agriculture sector is perhaps the freshest and best investment option an investor can make this year, says Daniel Go, an investment consultant managing proprietary funds that trade securities with preference to stock markets.

According to Go, the agriculture sector best represents the consumer staples industry, a particular asset class that prospers even during hard economic conditions.

“As an investment option, growth possibilities in the industry are boundless with the modernization of farming techniques, improved weather forecasting technologies, including renewed interest of the private sector together with government agencies, not to mention new demands in biofuel products,” says Go.

“Countries like the US, Japan, China, and Taiwan trace their economic prosperity to agriculture. As they are highly-industrialized economies, they are also agricultural powerhouses. During a crisis, they could still feed their people with basic food staples provided by their agriculture industry,” he adds.

Globalization is also a key factor why investing in agriculture is feasible. “The agriculture playing field has changed a lot owing to globalization, where it has now leveled off, making the Philippine agriculture sector better exposed to the demands of a bigger market. Since the country is blessed with fertile land, skilled workers and a great tropical weather, we are at an advantage.”

Prof. Leonor Briones, former head of the Bureau of Treasury, says now is a good time to invest in the agriculture sector, with recession staring the Philippines in the face.

“The first priority of the country should be in food production, marketing and distribution. It has been proven time and again that agriculture is a very resilient sector, even during hard economic times,” she notes.

She says investing in an agricultural stock is very timely at this point when other sectors are quite precarious and very vulnerable to financial shocks.

Go warns, however, that not all agriculture companies make a good investment. When choosing a company to invest in, they should look at the growth potential, source/s of growth, and growth sustainability, he says.

One possible choice, he says, is AgriNurture, Inc. or ANI, leading agro-commercial company.

“The business has a streamlined operation that is not hard to understand, it has a good business (farm-to-plate) model, plus the fact that investing in a company in the agriculture asset class is healthy for the agriculture sector in particular and healthy for the country in general,” explains Go.

Briones agrees, saying: “I believe in the vision of ANI for the country’s agriculture sector, even to the point of helping make an agriculture degree more attractive by offering scholarships in order to convince the Filipino youth to become agriculturists. So it’s not just about attracting investments in order to resuscitate the sector; it’s also about improving many impoverished Filipinos’ lives and contribute to overall national economic development.”

Focusing on the business of importation, trading and fabrication of post-harvest agricultural equipment during its early years, ANI has achieved world-class stature as an agro-industrial company that provides high-quality agricultural products, engaging in the commercial distribution of the freshest home-grown fruits and vegetables to its vast network of clients like popular malls and other key trade points like hotels and other commercial establishments.

Credit to this success goes to ANI’s revolutionary “farm-to-plate” business model that ensures a steady supply of high-quality fresh and processed agricultural food products to the country. The “farm-to-plate” model is supported by full forward and backward integrations through ANI’s farming subsidiary, Best Choice Harvest, one of several under ANI’s present business structure.

Best Choice Harvest undertakes joint-venture farming, contract growing, farm/plantation leasing, and farming research and development with local farmers and landowners, particularly in fruit – and vegetable-rich areas in the Visayas and Mindanao, in order to serve the supply needs of ANI. Thus, it also gave ANI the opportunity to expand further its operations by synergizing vital business activities, from farming, packing, trading, distribution, processing, canning, all the way up to sales.

As a result, this unique concept not only increased farmer productivity but also placed ANI as the perfect catalyst for private-sector involvement in agriculture to make it a valuable instrument for national economic development and at the same time, a viable investment option for many business-minded Filipinos.

To know more about ANI, log on to www.ani.com.ph.

A new method of making burong dalag

Posted in Agriculture, Tips by Erineus on February 24, 2009

Updated February 22, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – There’s a much improved scientific way of processing and packaging burong dalag (fermented mudfish).

The technology was developed by researchers Raquel Pambid, Wilma de Vera, Veronica Austria, Teresita Sunga, and Rosabella Mendez of the Pangasinan State University (PSU, Bayambang campus).

Their research project, titled “Processing and Packaging Improvement of Burong Dalag”, won the top prize in the 2009 Aquatic Technology Competition and Marketplace (ATCOM) sponsored by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Aquatic and Marine Research and Development (DOST-PCAMRD).

The PSU researchers said the practice of making buro dates to the Spanish times when, during semana santa (Holy Week), the people abstained from eating meat. Instead, they turned to fish and vegetables.

They noted: “To enjoy their fare of fish even during semana santa they preserved fish drenched in salt and mixed with rice and left it to ferment in earthen jars. Thus, buro was born.”

The PSU study aimed to make buro retain its delicious taste and at the same time eliminate its unfavorable odor so that it can be marketable locally and abroad. It also wanted to help buro makers perfect the product not only as raw material but cooked as well.

The researchers focused on salting, a critical point in making buro.

“The new formula used 24 percent rock salt to ferment dalag in 18-20 days. Beyond 20 days, bad smell develops and some molds may start to grow,” they said.

The new technology observes the following procedures: cleaning of the fish (minus head and internal organs), freezing of the cleansed fish, salting and soaking, draining of salted fish, stuffing of salted fish with cooked cooled rice, fermenting, cooking, sterilizing, bottling, and labeling.

The technology has been adopted by PSU, which has established markets in some restaurants, schools, and offices in Pangasinan. – Rudy A. Fernandez


More farmers go for Bt corn

Posted in Agriculture, BT Crops, DA by Erineus on February 17, 2009

DON’T look now, but more and more farmers are planting Bt corn, the GMO or genetically modified corn variety that many anti-biotech people had been condemning. Last year, at least 200,000 small corn farmers planted and made money from Bt corn, planting some 350,000 hectares.

The fast increasing popularity of Bt corn with local farmers could be easily gauged by the fact that in 2005, only 10,000 hectares were planted to this transgenic crop. Last year, the figure increased 35 times.

One avid grower of Bt corn is a widow, 54-year-old Lydia Lapastora of Brgy. Yeban Norte, Benito Soliven, Isabela. She has been planting Bt corn since 2005 when the same was first allowed to be commercially grown in the country. Despite the admonition of the priest in her hometown, she planted Bt corn and is really glad she did.

Last year, Lydia planted Bt corn on 10 hectares and harvested an average of 6.4 tons per hectare. That’s almost double the average of 3.57 tons per hectare harvested by corn farmers nationwide. On the average, she realized an additional net profit of P11,000 per hectare as a result of planting Bt corn. Since she planted two times on the same area last year, she really made a significant income from this GMO

The Bt corn, by the way, is more profitable to grow because it does not require any chemical spraying against the very destructive corn earworm that damages a lot of corn crops. This resists corn attack because the gene of Bacillus thuringensis, a natural enemy of corn earworm has been incorporated in the transgenic corn. Chemical pesticides are not only expensive, they also poison the environment. That is why Bt corn is actually considered environmentally friendly.

Corn is the only genetically modified crop that is being commercially grown in the Philippines. In other countries like the United States, Brazil, China and India, millions of hectares are now planted to transgenic soybean, cotton, corn and a few other crops. Work is under way, however, on the development of transgenic papaya and eggplant. The potentials of transgenic crops are really great but adequate research and development funds are badly needed. So are the right policies of the government.

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FREE-RANGE CHICKEN SEMINAR IN DAVAO. There will be a seminar on raising Sunshine free-range chicken on Feb. 19, at 3 p.m. at the Grand Regal Hotel in Davao City. It will be conducted by Dr. Rey Itchon of Solraya Enterprises. Sunshine chicken is a fast-growing breed from France which grows fast and tastes like the native chicken. Email: info@solraya.com

Zac B. Sarian
Manila Bulletin

Fortified with Vitamin A RP may be first to okay ‘Golden’ rice

Posted in Agriculture, BT Crops, Health by Erineus on February 15, 2009

The Philippines may be the first to approve perhaps by 2012 the commercialization of Vitamin A-rich Golden Rice (GR) with multi-locational trials set soon and regulatory procedures in well-advanced stage.

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is foreseeing the Philippines’ becoming first in the release of GR with both IRRI and the state-owned Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) collaborating on this.

“The first approved Golden Rice may be in 2012, according to IRRI, that will likely happen in the Philippines,” said International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application (ISAAA) Global Coordinator Randy A. Hautea in a press briefing.

IRRI, which is developing the genetically modified (GM) rice for the South East Asian market, has conducted its own field-testing in July last year of its GR variety and may do a second field trial this year, according to ISAAA Senior Program Officer Rhodora R. Aldemita.

Moreover, Philrice is developing its own GR variety that will even have enhanced traits including tungro-resistance and bacterial leaf blight (BLB) resistance.

Since the food crisis last year, Hautea said many companies and human welfare institutions have become aware of the need to support development of crops with important traits.

In the case of golden rice, funding comes from the Harvest Plus, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Atomic Energy Association.

Philrice’s development of GR with tungro virus and BLB-resistance is seen to strengthen the GM rice’s commercial prospect. The disease resistance is incorporated by the breeders using conventional breeding rather than genetic engineering.

Dr. Antonio A. Alfonso, PhilRice plant breeder, said that for PHilrice’s part the commercial release of GR in the Philippines may be put off beyond 2011-1012 if the Humanitarian Board and the GR Network decide to use Golden Rice 2, which has the highest level of beta-carotene.

So far, PhilRice has worked on GR1 that has lower betacarotene content than GR2. For the disease resistance, breeders used conventional breeding rather than genetic engineering.

“The targeted release on 2011 or 2012 is not yet final and may have to be modified. We have to obtain additional important data particularly on the stability and bioavailability of betacarotene in the different Golden Rice versions before the final donor will be identified. That will definitely affect the timeline for commercialization,” he said.

The GR is eyed to have a yield level similar to other newly-released varieties or at least five metric tons per hectare. PhilRice needs to conduct several seasons of multilocational field trials prior to release of GR. For this variety to get the stamp of approval by the National Seed Industry Council, it should also pass certain standards for grain and eating quality, disease and insect pest resistance and, being a genetically modified organism, biosafety.

Based on initial findings, betacarotene level in GR may fall significantly several weeks after harvest.

“Betacarotene is not stable when exposed to light, and there are enzymatic reactions within the rice grain which lead to degradation of betacarotene,” Alfonso said.

Dr. William G. Padolina, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) deputy director general, said IRRI is just stabilizing the backcrossed varieties at IRRI after which GR2 lines will be released to other rice research institutions.

It is estimated that 100 to 140 million children worldwide suffer from Vitamin A Deficiency which is causing blindness, measles, and child mortality.

While certain non-government organizations (NGO) have criticized huge budget allocation for Golden Rice as against the commodity’s value, many believe that fortifying rice with Vitamin A would be an effective and sustainable means to help Vitamin A-deficient rice-eating populations.

“For poor Filipinos, rice with a little amount of salt or a little amount of fish sauce will already make a meal (as no other),” said Dr. Evelyn Mae Tecson-Mendoza of the Institute of Plant Breeding-University of the PHilippines-Los Banos.

IRRI is also fortifying rice varieties with zinc and iron as zinc deficiency in South East Asia is reaching to 71 percent, according to Harvest Plus, while anemia arising from iron deficiency is affecting 57 percent of studied population.

IRRI plant breeders have already exceeded their targeted 24 micrograms per gram zinc content on rice while the target of 14 micrograms er gram target on high iron rice has yet to be hit at the prevent eight ug per g level.

While it is possible to combine biofortified zinc and iron-rich rice with GR, Padolina said no work on this is yet on-going.

Another genetically engineered rice is planned to be released in China . This is resistant to lepidopteran pests.

However, breeders are confident that the bio-fortified rice varieties may likely have stronger acceptability among consumers and farmers.

“We hope ( China will be the first to release a GM rice in Asia ). But we have to be careful to commercialize GM rice because we export rice to other countries. Maybe in China there’s no problem, but there (may be a problem) in the export market,” said Zhen Zhu of the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, in a recent biotechnology forum.

China is ready to commercialize its GM rice if not for the fear certain preparations that it hopes will also ready its export market for the rice.


Platform to translate biotech breakthroughs

Posted in Agriculture by Erineus on February 12, 2009

A new platform funded with $ 6.2 million has been launched in India to translate transgenic technology and harness its products to meet the needs of agricultural growth, it was learned from Dr. William Dar, director general of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) based in India.

The Platform for Translational Research on Transgenic Crops (PTTC) is a collaborative project of ICRISAT and the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) of the government of India. PTTC will serve as a facility of reference to strengthen national, regional and international linkages in transgenic R&D, exchange of materials and information, as well as support training, consultation and technology commercialization.

Speaking at the launching of the project, Dr. Dar said that research breakthroughs in agri-biotechnology hold the potential for increasing crop productivity and the resistance of food crops to pests and diseases, thereby helping solve the food crisis. He stressed that the future food demand cannot be met merely from incremental gains from conventional plant breeding. A quantum change in yield improvement is needed, such as that which occurred during the Green Revolution.

Dr. Dar added that finding solutions to major crop productivity constraints, developing new technologies that will increase yields in low-potential areas and creating opportunities for diversification in agricultural value chains are some of the major present day agricultural challenges.

He explained that agri-biotechnologies are a further step in an evolution that extends from the dawn of agriculture. These technologies offer a new set of tools to enhance crop productivity and profitability.

In 2008, another 40 million people were pushed into hunger due to high food prices. A majority of the world’s undernourished, over 900 million, live in developing countries alone. The world hunger crisis may further deteriorate as the financial crisis combined with the energy crisis, and emerging climate change issues threaten livelihoods. Hence, combating the food crisis will require much greater investments in agriculture, Dr. Dar said.

ICRISAT believes that biotechnology can contribute to global food, feed and fiber security, improve health and nutrition; use less external inputs for a more sustainable agriculture and environment; conserve biodiversity and help improve economic and social status and alleviate poverty in poor countries, Dr. Dar added.

Transgenics offer a powerful tool for nutritional enhancement that may save lives or help farmers adapt to climate change through faster integration of genes for drought and flood tolerance, in the process generating social, economic and environmental benefits for resource-poor farmers.

MEDIA BREEFING ON BIOTECH. Meanwhile, Dr. Emil Q. Javier, president of the National Academy of Science and Technology, will discuss today the national policies and strategies in bringing the benefits of science and technology in relation to the current food security and economic crisis. This will be at a media briefing co-organized by NAST, SEARCA, and the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA). The briefing is from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Richmonde Hotel in Pasig City.

The briefing will also feature the Global Status Report of Biotech Crops in 2008 authored by Dr. Clive James, founder and chairman of ISAAA. The report includes the annual global biotech crop adoption, key milestones in 2008, important growth centers and predictions for the next decade.

By Zac B. Sarian
Source: http://www.mb.com.ph/AGRI20090212147974.html

Micro-finance helps landless women farmers

Posted in Agriculture, Livelihood, Micro-finance by Erineus on February 11, 2009

Marta Malijan is a pig raiser in Bitin, Laguna. The other year, she took a loan from the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development, Inc. (CARD) for her agribusiness activity. Today, she has eight breeders and is raising over 50 piglets.

With the improvement she made with the loan, she was able to raise enough funds to branch out her business and set up a small dry goods store. She also partnered with Genelyn Agao, another CARD beneficiary, in setting up a beauty salon in their community.

Aling Marta and Aling Genelyn are just two of the many beneficiaries of the micro-finance program of CARD, a non-government organization and a known innovator in micro-finance which focuses on helping agricultural communities.

This year, the hundreds of other landless women farmers are set to benefit from the program as CARD received a P440,000 grant from Chevron Geothermal Philippines Holdings, Inc. The amount will be used in the implementation of “Sikap,” a production loan facility in Barangays Bitin, Sta. Elena and Limao in Laguna. The three barangays are some of the host communities being supported by CGPHI.

CARD was tapped by CGPHI to be its partner in micro-lending activities for its host communities. Under said partnership, CARD will implement Sikap Loan which seeks to support the livelihood activities of landless women in the province. Through Sikap, members can get an initial loan amount of P2,000 to P7,000, payable in six months or one year at 2.5% interest per month. Repayment is weekly.

CARD and CGPHI’s partnership for this micro-finance program aims to give poor women in three barangays in Laguna a better chance in life by providing them opportunities to build sustainable livelihoods and lifestyles. Seeking to educate women farmers in managing their money and establishing savings, CARD requires members to save at least P40 per week, which can be withdrawn as long as 15% of the principal loan is retained.

The partnership between CARD and CGPHI was established in December 2007 through a memorandum of agreement. Through this partnership, CARD was able to grant loans to 226 women in Barangays Bitin, Sta. Elena and Limao, up from 143 women members prior to CARD’s receipt of funding assistance from CGPHI. By end of 2008, 240 women were able to receive assistance from the financing program.

CGPHI is a steam-field operator providing geothermal energy to the Tiwi and Mak-Ban power plants located in Albay and Laguna-Batangas provinces. It is committed to being an active and engaged partner to its host communities through enterprise and capacity-building programs.

Source: http://www.mb.com.ph/archive_pages.php?url=http://www.mb.com.ph/issues/2009/02/07/AGRI20090207147397.html

Davao cacao into US chocolate bars

Posted in Agriculture by Erineus on February 11, 2009

One good news is that cacao produced in Davao City has started to be exported to the United States and is being made into “Davao Philippines 77% Chocolate Bar” by the Askinosie Chocolate Company in Springfield, Missouri.

The product was unveiled at the Askinosie factory last January 30 at a party that launched the special Filipino chocolate bar, attended by Philippine Consul General Blesila Cabrera and trade representative Glenn Peñaranda. The party featured samples of the Filipino chocolate bar as well as traditional Filipino dishes and music.

The American company bought an initial seven tons of cacao beans (at $ 2,800 per ton) from growers that include Charita Puentespina who has rehabilitated an old cacao plantation. Puentespina said the consolidated shipment came from many farmers cultivating a few hectares each.

The beans, she said, are of the best quality as they have been fermented properly. One factor that has been responsible for the promotion of cacao production and proper postharvest handling is the Success Alliance project financed by the US Department of Agriculture. The project is implemented through the ACDI/VOCA, a non-governmental organization operating worldwide, promoting cacao production in selected parts of the Philippines.

Through the help of ACDI/VOCA, the Mars Cocoa Training Center was established the other year in the farm of Charita Puentespina. At the training center, improved practices in production are taught. These include the use of superior varieties, grafting techniques, proper pruning, fertilization, pest and disease control, seedling production and one of the most important, fermentation of the beans.

First, trainors were trained at the center. Then the trainors were dispatched to their own areas of operation, teaching at least 100 farmers per trainor. After training the farmers, they are next brought to the training center in Puentespina’s farm. There they will witness the various improved production practices as well as the fermentation system. So far, more than 1,200 farmers have been trained at the training center in Davao City, according to Puentespina.

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FREE-RANGE CHICKEN SEMINAR IN DAVAO CITY. Dr. Rey Itchon of Solraya Enterprises will conduct a seminar on raising Sunshine free-range chickens on Thursday, February 19, starting at 3 p.m. at the Grand Regal Hotel in Davao City. The Sunshine chicken is a fast-growing breed from the Sasso Company in France, coming in different superior lines. The naked neck line, the latest of the Sunshine chickens, is said to be highly suited for tropical conditions. The different lines can be raised for meat as well as for egg production. Dr. Itchon can be reached at his e-mail: info@solraya.com.

Author: Zac B. Sarian
Source: http://www.mb.com.ph/archive_pages.php?url=http://www.mb.com.ph/issues/2009/02/07/AGRI20090207147396.html