DA CELEBRATES 117 YEARS OF SERVICE TO AGRICULTURE AND FISHERIES SECTORS


The Department of Agriculture celebrated, from 22-26 June 2015, its 117th year of existence. The agency mandated to develop and uplift the country’s agriculture and fisheries sectors was officially created by the revolutionary government on 23 June 1898, eleven days after the first Philippine President – Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared the country’s independence.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala officially opened the weeklong celebration on 22 June 2015 at the DA central office in Quezon City .

Recognizing the DA employees [and management] efforts and unwavering dedication to serve the Filipino farmers and fisher folks, specially the smallholders who need more attention from the government, the Agri-chief thanked the DA bureaucracy and acknowledged its role in introducing the agency’s programs and projects to mainstream public awareness and consciousness.

“Maraming-maraming salamat po sapagkat kung wala po kayong mga kawani ng Kagawaran, siguro po ay hindi natin matatamo ang kasalukuyang pagkilala ng ating lipunan sa ating Kagawaran,” Sec. Alcala said.

He cited DA bureaucracy’s role in restoring the farmers’ and fisherfolks’ trust and confidence to the agency.

Sec. Alcala also urged the employees to continue providing appropriate service to the agriculture and fisheries sectors, who are their true bosses that they must serve, for the remaining year of the Aquino administration.

The Aquino administration maintains the food sector on top of its priority list as it sets to achieve sufficiency and sustainability of basic foodstuff for the benefit of all Filipinos.

Under the leadership of Secretary Alcala, DA has achieved the country’s historical best for rice and corn, and has posted increase year after year. These grains, along with other staples, are part of the advocacy of the government under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program.

In 2014, the Philippines  was ranked as the “World’s Fastest Rice Producer” with 4.98% annual increase in production from 2010-2014 driven by the expansion of harvested area from 4.25 million hectares (ha) to 4.74 million has.

From a P15,830/ha profit in 2010, rice farmers secured a P21,910/ha income in 2013, which translates to 38.4% increase over three years.

Net income per hectare from corn farming also increased by 65.6%. From 2010 to 2013, farmers averaged a 21.9% increase per year, mainly due to the improvement in yield, increase in farmgate prices and minimal increase in per unit cost.

Under its marketing initiatives, DA has established a number of Agri-Pinoy Trading Centers (APTCs) in strategic areas across the country to provide farmers an enabling environment for systematic and fair trade.

These modern trading centers serve as a hub for various agricultural commodities and high value farm products, provide direct access to farmers and reduce the layers of middlemen.

The trading centers also showcase state of the art facilities and slaughterhouses for the processing of farm produce, as well as meat and fishery products.

At the start of the present government, DA was handpicked to initiate rural development programs that will empower farmers and fishers and stabilize the economic conditions in the countryside.

For the past five years, DA has been sensitive to the needs of the farmers and has provided necessary interventions to assure sufficient and sustainable food supply for every Filipino. (Marlo Asis, DA-AFID)

Posted By: Lynne Pingoy

QC WANTS EARLY COMPLETION OF FLOOD CONTROL PROJECTS


The Quezon City government has shelled out almost one billion pesos to private contractors for projects to de-clog, repair and improve the city’s waterways in preparation for the rainy season.

With such big budget and with the start of the rainy season this June, Mayor Herbert M. Bautista told the QC engineering department to remind contractors of waterways infrastructure projects to strictly observe the deadline stipulated in their contracts with the QC government.

To date, the city government has a total expenditure of Php 899,775,402.77 for on-going waterways infra projects  (Php 201,122,820.06) and improvement of  drainage  system  projects (Php 698,652,582.71).

As early as April, the Mayor directed the city engineering department, headed by  Joselito Cabungcal, to take steps to prevent and minimize flooding in the city, including improvement of  drainage channels to ensure a free flow of drainage water and  rainwater this rainy season.

In District I alone, the city has allocated Php132,064,915.71 the amount to be used to cover the  improvement plan for drainage  channel leading to Araneta creek, Mariblo creek, Matalahib creek, Culiat river, San Francisco river, Tangue creek, Balaba creek, Bayan creek, Katipunan creek, Dario creek,  and Pasong Tamo creek.

District II has a total share of Php 142,609,439.20 for drainage projects, including the drainage improvement for Tullahan river, which runs through Barangays North Fairview, Sta. Lucia, Sta. Monica, Gulod, Nagkaisang Nayon and San Bartolome.

A budget of Php 89,781,151.73 is for improvement of drainage systems in District III to be implemented in Barangays East Kamias and  Tagumpay, while Php 89,671,504.94 is for District IV  covering the areas of Campupot creek going to San Juan river, Aurora Boulevard Bridge and Lagarian Creek.

District V and District VI has  projects worth Php 164,982,516.92 and Php 79,543,054.21, respectively.

Drainage improvement and waterways construction projects were undertaken by QC government as pre-disaster preparedness measures to minimize the effects of flooding and minimize loss of lives and damage to properties during any eventualities, especially flashfloods .

Flood prevention is also intended to avert worse traffic scenarios during heavy rains. (Maureen)

 

Posted By: Edrillan Pasion

 

DA-PRDP COCO WATER PRODUCT-TESTING SHOWS GOOD FEEDBACK


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“It tastes good and sweet. If I need energy, I’ll choose this,” said triathlete Hayley Goldberg after she had a taste of the soon-to-be launched coco water product developed and packaged by Camarines Sur farmers with support from the Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rural Development Project (DA-PRDP).

This was one of the positive comments by athletes who joined the recent Challenge CamSur last June 14, 2015 in Camarines Sur. Goldberg is the top finisher for the 45-49 age bracket category.

The DA-PRDP in Region V has conducted the product testing and market survey of the coco water in the said event to gather initial feedbacks prior to the release of the product in the market.

The Project partnered with the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA) and the Camarines Sur Provincial Government for the conduct of “Operation of Village Level Coconut Water Processing Center.”

According to CBSUA project leader Julieta M. Casaul, the product testing was conducted to evaluate the perception and feedback of the general consumers about the characteristics and market acceptability of coco water as part of their market and profitability study on the product.

A booth for the product testing and market survey was installed by the DA Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division at the Camsur Watersports Complex (CWC) where the sports event was held.

About 150 respondents, majority of whom are athletes were interviewed using market research tools including the Usage, Attitude and Image (UAI) study, product prototype test and price sensitivity analysis.

Consumers’ feedback on the product’s taste, appearance, size and health benefits were solicited to determine their preference. In addition, price and potential demand and brand preference test were surveyed.

A recent nutrient analysis conducted by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in Region V shows that coco water is rich in electrolytes like potassium and sodium that enable body cells to generate energy, keep the body hydrated, and restore its balance. Intake of electrolytes is recommended to prepare for rigorous activities like running or hiking to prevent muscle cramps, step up performance, and boost endurance.

“Isang market ng coco water ang athletes and the Challenge CamSur is an opportune time to get their feedback about the product,” CBSUA Project Leader Hanilyn A. Hidalgo said.

Camarines Sur Male South East Asian Elite champion Augusto Benedicto said that the coco water is better than other energy drinks, while Event Director Anna Stroh said that coco water tastes more like fresh buko juice.

About 475 triathletes participated in the Challenge CamSur triathlon event which consists of a 1.9-kilometer swim, 90-kilometer bike, and 21-kilometer run race course.

The “Operation of Village Level Coconut Water Processing Center” sub-project is part of the Enterprise Development (I-REAP) Component of the PRDP, which aims to establish strong linkage among coconut farmers in the region and at the same time capacitate them to value-add their products and engage in businesses.

PRDP is  a P27.48-billion project  implemented under the DA has funding support from a World Bank loan, the national government and LGU. It aims to develop the economy in the rural areas while increasing incomes of rural farmers and fishers. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-PRDP Region V)

Posted By: Lynne Pingoy

TEXTING OK IN AG EX – PHILRICE RESEARCHER


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Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija – Access to farming information is now taking a new trend as modern technology plays pivotal roles in reaching Filipino farmers.

According to Dr. Ronan G. Zagado, development communicator at PhilRice, use of short message service (SMS) allows an alternate and easier route for farmers in obtaining agricultural information.

Zagado explained that aside from being a social communication medium, SMS is also used massively in agriculture.

“The PhilRice Text Center (PTC) is a good example of this. From merely 11 text messages in 2006 to more than 100,000 SMS queries in 2010,” he said.

PTC provides information in the form of farm advisories, technology updates, market information, how-to’s, and other farm insights. Texters, predominantly farmers, consult to PTC in every cropping season and even during fallow period.

Furthermore, the information provided by PTC translates into additional income for farmers. In a study conducted by PhilRice development communicator Hazel V. Antonio in 2011, the use of SMS in getting agricultural information could give up to P39,730 additional income

A different view of agri-extension

In a study titled Texting as a discursive approach for the production of agricultural solutions by Zagado and Michael Wilmore of the University of Adelaide, the meaning of agricultural knowledge varies and depends on its use to the user or client.

An example of this is the meaning of rice variety. As reported, ‘which rice variety to grow’ was the most frequently asked topic received by the PTC.

“Varietal recommendations will vary depending on farmers’ requirements relating to yield potential, pest resistance, varietal maturity, location, and eating quality,” Zagado said.

Zagado said SMS now provides an entirely different view and process of agricultural extension particularly in the production and distribution of agricultural knowledge.

Several factors play vital role in this process such as content, clarity, length, timing and cultural factors.

Queries received within working days from 8am to 5pm get speedy response. As for the content of the message, it is preferred if it is shorter and easier messages receive faster reply.

It is advised to make queries concise and direct to the point, and send it during office hours to receive faster response. Longer messages or difficult queries may take longer time for the operator of the PTC to respond.

While texting has indeed provided an alternate route in getting agricultural knowledge, Zagado stressed, improvements can still be made to make it more effective.

Capacity enhancement for extension workers on how to optimize SMS-ing in their work is in the right direction, he said.

Zagado’s thesis on “Human Agency, Power and Discourse: Accomplishing Farm Work through Short Messaging Service (SMS) in the Philippines” received the Thesis Excellence Award at the University of Adelaide. (DA-PhilRice Development Communication Division)

Posted By: Lynne Pingoy

PHL IS A FRONTRUNNER IN FOOD SAFETY – PRES. AQUINO


The Philippines is performing very well in terms of food safety.

This was according to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III who graced the opening of the Livestock Philippines 2015, on June 25, 2015 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

During his message, the Chief Executive told the members of the diplomatic corps, foreign exhibitors, national and local government officials, and the media, that the country has been free from avian flu since 2005 and the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) since 2010 making it eligible to export poultry and swine products.

“Just last month, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) accorded the Philippines the highest level of recognition as a country free from FMD without vaccination, further increasing the country’s global competitiveness,” Aquino said.

“The government’s goal is not only to maintain the standards but also to ensure that the livestock industry continues to grow and develop,” he added.

Over the course of Aquino’s term, the budget for livestock industry has increased by 180%, giving priority on vaccination initiatives and disease surveillance among other measures, which aim to control if not eradicate animal diseases.

Currently, the government’s initiatives under the livestock industry are primarily focused in ensuring food safety.

For example, the amended Meat Inspection Code imposes stricter fines for food safety violations. The Food Safety Act of 2013, on the other hand, strengthens the food regulatory system in order to protect consumer health.

The Agriculture Department has also monitored the price movement of various livestock and poultry products.

According to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, the price of meat and poultry has remained relatively stable for the last five years.

He added that even the change in price for meat and poultry between 2011 and 2014 was comparatively lower at 2.6% per year versus the 3.8% overall inflation rate.

“Not even during the past Christmas season did the country experience surges in the price of ham and chicken,” Alcala said.

“The stable price of meat and poultry was due partly to the effective coordination among industry stakeholders including producers and processors,” he added.

Alcala said that the Livestock Expo 2015 celebrates the milestones and other achievements of the Filipino livestock and poultry industry.

“This exposition showcases the progress that we have made together and reminds us of the huge potential of the industry towards the continuous transformation and growth of Philippine agriculture,” he said.

From 2010 to 2014, livestock and poultry production volume increased by 2.3% annually while the value of the output grew at a rate of 4.8% per year.

In 2014, the value of livestock production grew by 5.6% from previous year’s output to PhP 247.1 billion. Meanwhile, value of poultry output expanded by 7.84% to PhP 189.7 billion at current prices.

Livestock and poultry contribute between 30.6% of total agricultural output. (Marlo Asis, DA-AFID)

Posted By: Lynne Pingoy

GEOTAGGING RECOGNIZED AS AN EFFECTIVE TRANSPARENCY TOOL FOR GOV’T PROJS


The World Bank (WB) has recently recognized the Philippines as the leading nation in utilizing geotagging—a vital tool in promoting transparency of government-implemented projects.

With this, the WB has requested the Department of Agriculture (DA) to promote geotagging not only in the country, but also internationally, as the foreign financial institution is set to release guidelines for geotagging application on the procurement and implementation of projects supported by three major foreign fund sources in the country.

Aside from the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will soon adapt the tool in implementing their assisted projects in the Philippines.

Pioneered by the DA as a virtual monitoring tool for agri-fishery projects in 2011 under the Mindanao Rural Development Program, geo-tagging is now being adopted by 17 WB-supported projects of national agencies including Departments of Agrarian Reform, Public Works and Highways, Environment and Natural Resources, and Social Welfare and Development, and the National Irrigation Administration among others.

The geotagging tool is being utilized under the DA’s Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP), also a WB-assisted project to validate and monitor proposed and implemented sub-projects.

Other DA agencies such as the Agricultural Training Institute and the National Meat Inspection Service are undergoing training from the PRDP to allow them success similar to MRDP/PRDP projects.

PRDP Deputy Project Director Arnel De Mesa said that the WB and Commission on Audit (COA) have asked the DA to help craft and develop standard procedures in auditing and monitoring government projects to include geotagging as a tool in the system.

“The national government will soon release a standardized process scheme in monitoring and evaluating government projects,” De Mesa said during the Geomapping and Governance Unit Coordination Meeting on June 24, 2015 in Davao City.

“With this, we see how geotagging is affecting the policy of the national government in regards with sub-project validation, monitoring and evaluation, and approval of projects,” he added.

GGU Head Samuel Belamide, the team that handles the PRDP geotagging said that the tool covers the entire project cycle from validation to implementation, completion and even the assessment of the project impact.

“The guidelines set by the WB for the foreign-assisted projects are based on the experience of the PRDP and we are glad that we will be applying this tool to other government projects,” he added.

Belamide and his team are responsible for the training of other government agencies in geotagging as well as PRDP’s Local Government partners and winning contractors for various sub-projects.

Geotagged photos of physical accomplishments for projects and deliveries of goods are required for contractors’ progress billings and requests for payment.

Geotagging is an ICT application that associates digital resource such as photos and videos with geographic and location information with high degree of precision. Geotagged photos are then automatically mapped into Google Earth, showing the exact location of a particular project. (Catherine Nanta, DA-PRDP)

Posted By: Lynne Pingoy

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE RAIN – DA


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Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala urged rice farmers to plant early and take advantage of the water supply brought about by the rainy season.

“If you start planting now, by July, when it is expected to rain the most, your rice crops would have passed its flowering stage, thus there is a better chance that harvests will be maximized,” he said during a media interaction at the L’Fisher Hotel in Bacolod City, yesterday.

According to Alcala, farmers must take advantage of the intermittent rains especially in rainfed areas.

As such, the Department of Agriculture (DA) chief advised farmers and other stakeholders dependent on water for their food production activities to save water and take active actions related to water impounding initiatives of the government.

“We are thankful for the forecasts declared by PAG-ASA, as it prepares and enable us to lay-out efficient strategies to assist our farmers,” Alcala said.

He however noted that even if it is raining every now and then, it does not mean that the El Niño dry spell is over.

“As per experts’ advise, the dry spell will start weak and grow moderate until August this year, it will persist until December and will start weakening until early 2016,” he said.

Alcala underscored that the agency has mapped out a variety of climate adaptation measures to cushion the impact of adverse weather changes.

“We are ready to schedule cloud seeding operations in case there is a need to induce rains during long dry seasons,” he assured.

He added that DA is ready to install water pumps and solar water pumps in communities that will need augmentation in water supply.

Alcala was in Negros Occidental, on June 23, 2015, to oversee the operation of the agricultural tramline system installed by DA’s Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization in Salvador Benedicto.

The project aims to help farmers of the municipality [Salvador Benedicto] as well as the city of San Carlos haul and transport their produce easier and for a shorter period of time, thereby lowering postharvest losses and enabling farmers to earn more.

The two-way bicable tramline system serves around 400 farmers producing upland rice, banana, ginger, corn, vegetables, coconut and livestock.

With the installation of the tramline, farmers are able to lessen transport time from 3 hours to only 15 minutes, and deliver to trading centers at shorter periods of time.

“The system also helps them maintain the good quality of their products, which in effect enables them to demand good price in the markets,” Alcala said.

Governor Alfrdo Marañon, Jr., who stressed that Alcala was the first cabinet secretary to set foot in Salvador Benedicto, thanked the agri chief for all his assistance in the agricultural development of the province.

Speaking at a farmers’ forum held in La Carlota, Alcala assured all farmer-participants that the government will continue to provide assistance and support to the country’s agriculture sector.

As such, he directed all concerned DA officials to immediately conduct training on efficient and productive farming systems, as well as provide support on farm mechanization and infrastructure development programs of the department to ensure that farmers live will reach the optimal effect of government assistance.

“Ako po ay personal na inatasan ng ating pangulo na ilapit sa inyo [magsasaka at mangingisda] ang mga programa ng pamahalaan para naman po maramadaman ninyo ang pagbabago sa inyong buhay at kabuhayan,” he assured. (Adora Rodriguez/AFID)

Posted By: Lynne Pingoy