DA, TESDA eye more training sessions for farming, urban agri-production

Robie de Guzman   •   April 28, 2020   •   876

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Tuesday announced it has signed an agreement with the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) to offer more training sessions in farming and urban agriculture to address the pressing demand to boost food production.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the partnership with TESDA is part of a broader food security effort as parts of the country prepare to shift to a less restrictive form of community quarantine against novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Several areas in the country that have moderate or low virus risk will be placed under general community quarantine beginning May 1, as recently announced by the government.

Dar said these training periods seek to further enhance the skills and know-how of farmers under the “new normal” era in agricultural production, and food value chain.

“Our farmers need a complete package of support and technical assistance to enable them to produce more. In this regard, we welcome the TESDA as a partner as together we confront the ‘new normal’ environment as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic,” he said in a statement issued on Monday.

Dar said he and TESDA Director-General Isidro Lapeña recently reached the agreement to craft a training design that will specifically address the emerging needs of farmers in terms of skills development to cope with the current national state of emergency and Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine.

“While we are combating the COVID-19 pandemic, we should at the same time empower farmers to improve their productivity, and thus contribute to increasing the country’s food adequacy level. And we must assist them to succeed in this quest,” he said.

For his part, Lapeña said that agriculture has been their top priority and that training institutions have been directed to prioritize the agri-sector in allocating budget for their skills training.

“In this time of pandemic, we are now seeing the importance of food security. We can utilize both big and small spaces to plant vegetables,” he said.

The DA chief said the plan on capacity enhancement for agricultural production will initially focus on urban agriculture, rice production, livestock and poultry raising, among other modules — anchored on the DA’s Plant, Plant, Plant Program or the Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) kontra COVID-19.

“We will strongly coordinate with TESDA to hasten the conduct of these trainings in a manner that follows current quarantine protocols,” he added.

DA urged to prioritize eradication of ASF, extension of aid to hog farmers

Robie de Guzman   •   April 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joel Villanueva on Monday called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) to “do everything in its power” to resolve the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak, and to prioritize the extension of aid to struggling local hog industry stakeholders.

“This food crisis is a local problem that must have a local solution. In order of priority, unahin po natin ang pagsugpo sa ASF at pagtulong sa mga magbababoy. Iyan ang tanong po natin sa DA ngayon. Ano po ang farm-level solutions nyo?” Villanueva said in Monday’s Senate hearing on the alleged “tongpats scheme” within the DA on imported pork.

Villanueva made the call as he expressed apprehension over President Rodrigo Duterte’s Executive Order 128 to temporarily lower the tariffs on pork imports to resolve the existing pork supply shortage and stabilize meat prices in the country.

“At hindi po ako naniniwala na ang solusyon sa krisis na ito ay mag-import ng karne. An imported virus is killing local pigs. We should not let too much imported pork finish off what is left of our hog industry. Our salvation cannot be found in foreign farms,” he said.

Villanueva said that the ASF outbreak has reduced the supply of local pork in the market and that he wants to know what the DA is doing to counter this scarcity that has been driving the prices of meat to unaffordable levels.

“Maliban sa pag-alis ng tariff walls, ano po ang farmgate interventions ng DA? The national swine inventory is down by 3 million heads. Piggeries have been emptied of one-fourth of their stocks. This 25-percent plunge in the livestock population translates to a 100-percent bankruptcy rate in many pig farms. Biyak na po pati kanilang piggy banks,” he said in a separate statement.

The senator noted that in Bulacan alone, the pork production inventory was already down by one-third last year while the hog production in the whole Central Luzon plunged to one-fourth in 2020.

“P8,000 po ang nawalang kita sa kada ulo ng baboy. Di hamak mas malaki po ito sa P1,000 na ayuda ng gobyerno kada ulo sa isang bahay,” he said.

Other senators have earlier called on Duterte to reconsider and recall EO 128 as this will only further burden local hog raisers who are already suffering from the negative impact of the ASF crisis.

Under EO 128, the tariff rate for imported pork meat within quota or minimum access volume will be pegged at 5 percent for the first three months of the order’s effectivity and 10 percent during the months four to 12.

For pork imports outside the quota, the order cuts the tariff to 15 percent during the first three months upon its effectivity, and 20 percent for the months four to 12.

The EO said that the current 30 percent to 40 percent tariff rate for imported pork will be restored after the 12th month.

“There is an urgent need to temporarily reduce the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariff rates on fresh, chilled or frozen meat of swine to address the existing pork supply shortage, stabilize prices of pork meat, and minimize inflation rates,” Duterte said in his order.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, however, said there is no need to import more pork products because the local production is already more than sufficient to address the shortage of pork supply.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Lacson said the average nationwide consumption of pork products from 2018 to 2020 was at 1.85 million metric tons.

During the same period, the average annual local production of pork was 2.25 million metric tons.

“So where is the shortage? Hindi man malinaw na higit pa sa sapat ang supply mula sa local na production upang matugunan ang pangangailangan ng ating bansa?” Lacson said in his opening statement at the hearing of the Senate Committee of the Whole on the food security crisis.

“Ito ay sa kabila ng umiiral na African Swine Fever (ASF) na nagsimulang nakapasok sa bansa noon pa mang Agosto 2019 na siyang ginawa nilang pangunahing dahilan sa pagkumbinsi kay Presidente Duterte upang pirmahan ang nasabing EO 128,” he added.

The investigation into the food security crisis stemmed from allegations about a kickback scheme in the pork importation process within the Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier denied involvement in the alleged scheme and that an investigation has been launched into the issue.

Meat dealers want ‘nationwide price ceiling’ on pork

Marje Pelayo   •   April 9, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Meat dealers are urging the government to re-impose a price ceiling on pork, this time one that will cover the entire country, not just the National Capital Region (NCR).

The price ceiling imposed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) in Metro Manila lapsed on Thursday (April 8).

The price of pork spiked since late last year due to the outbreak of African Swine Fever (ASF) prompting the DA to implement a price ceiling of P270 to P350 pesos per kilogram of pork.

But now that the price ceiling has lapsed and there is no suggested retail price (SRP) on pork, prices are expected to shoot up to as high as P400 per kilogram.

Thus, the Manila Meat Dealers Association appeals to the DA to impose another price ceiling, if not in the entire country, at least in Luzon.

“Iyan lang po talaga ang nakikita naming paraan, magkaroon ng panibagong price ceiling sa buong bansa na o buong Luzon kasi nandito naman ang sentro ng ASF sa buong Luzon,” said Meat Dealers’ president Ricardo Chan.

“Kasi pumalpak ang price ceiling nila (dahil) NCR lang. Ngayon kung ipatutupad iyan sa kabuoan ng bansa eh siguradong bababa ang presyo ng baboy,” he added.

The group said that though there is enough supply of pork in local markets at present, manipulation in prices remains evident.

“Halos lahat ng palengke makikita mo naman bukas. Sa madalit sabi may baboy, nagsasamantala lang talaga itong mga hog raiser,” he said.

“Magtataka ka eh diba? Bakit ang daming baboy halos lahat ng palengke may baboy pero noong magkaroon ng price ceiling eh nawala yung baboy. Anu yun, nagtago? Ibig sabihin yung mga hog raiser ang nagko-control,” he said.

Chan added that they are in favor of having another price ceiling for both local and imported pork to ease the burden from consumers.

Also, imposing such a limit will help local hog raisers compete with imported pork, he stated.

DA doubles indemnity for each hog culled due to ASF

Robie de Guzman   •   April 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is increasing the indemnity for each hog culled due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreak.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said his agency, through the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC), will double the indemnification payout as part of the administration’s efforts to encourage hog raises badly hit by the outbreak to get back to business and help stabilize pork supply and prices in the country.

“Through the PCIC insurance program, we are doubling the indemnification payout for every pig that contracts ASF from P5,000 to P10,000. With the increased indemnity, hog raisers are encouraged to report affected pigs, thus controlling the ASF from spreading,” Dar said.

“The PCIC swine industry insurance program strongly complements the DA’s twin program of Bantay ASF sa Barangay to effectively control, contain and manage the ASF, and the Integrated National Swine Production Initiatives for Recovery and Expansion (INSPIRE) or hog repopulation program to revive the country’s swine industry,” he added.

The DA-PCIC is the country’s sole and exclusive government agricultural insurance firm.

According to DA-PCIC president Atty. Jovy Bernabe, the swine insurance program is a relaxed version of the agency’s regular livestock insurance program, offering free premium payments for backyard raisers and discounted premium for commercial hog raisers, and increased indemnity payments for culled hogs.

“For backyard swine raisers, the subsidy will be 100 percent of the premium cost, provided they are listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA), while for commercial swine raisers, the premium subsidy will be discounted,” Bernabe said.

For backyard farmers, Bernabe said the DA-PCIC provides 1.75 percent premium for fatteners and 3.5 percent for breeders, which are waived as free. Commercial farmers pay the same premium rates, discounted from the regular rates of 2.25% and 4%, for their stocks to be covered.

He added that the insurance covers P10,000 per head for fatteners, P14,500 per head for breeders, and P34,000 per head for parent stocks.

Aside from backyard swine raisers and farmers’ cooperatives, the insurance program will also cover local government units, and state colleges and universities, which implement respective hog fattening and breeding programs.

“The hog farms must be registered with the LGU, which in turn, must have organized the Bantay ASF sa Barangay. Also, their operations must be compliant with the Biosecurity Level 1 standards or a level of farm biosecurity in compliance with minimum standards set by the Philippine College of Swine Practitioners (PSCP),” he said.

“The provincial and municipal governments that have jurisdiction over the farms of the beneficiaries must have adopted harmonized ordinance relevant to the prevention of ASF. Likewise, the municipal government must implement and regularly update the Municipal ASF Control and Prevention Plan, aligned with the initiatives of the DA Regional Field Office (RFO),” he added.

Dar urged backyard and commercial hog raisers to secure insurance packages and take advantage of the free and discounted insurance premium, respectively, offered by DA-PCIC to “regain your livelihood and businesses, and more importantly revive our ASF-stricken swine sector.”

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