by Secretary Emmanuel Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

In my last visit to Bukidnon last week, Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri warned that corn farmers in the province could suffer from very low buying prices as the province expects bumper harvest from over 100,000 hectares of production area.

Bukidnon is a huge corn producing province which belongs to Northern Mindanao Region, the country’s second biggest producer of corn after Cagayan Valley.

The drastic drop in the price of corn during peak harvest season has always been a problem for corn farmers in Mindanao for as long as I could remember.

The buying price of corn in Mindanao goes up to as high as P20 per kilo off season to as low as P8 at peak of harvest.

Traders take advantage of the absence of drying and storage facilities and set the prices at very low levels and since they own warehouses and drying facilities, they hoard the stocks and release these to the market during off-harvest season thus making a killing.

In fact, when my late father was a member of the Provincial Board of North Cotabato in the late 80s, he led farmers to the halls of the Senate to ask for legislative action on the unfair and unjust practice by traders to drop the buying price of corn during peak harvest season.

At that time, corn farmers of Cotabato, especially the Arakan Valley, either dumped their harvests by the side of the road or burned their corn to show their displeasure at the seeming inability of government to help and protect them.

I vividly remember that because I was then working for the Philippine News Agency and I joined my father and the farmers in seeking audience with the Senators.

Looking back and getting a better understanding of how government works, the crusade which my father and the corn farmers’ waged was all for naught because legislation could not possibly correct a market system controlled by unscrupulous traders and middlemen.

Today, 40 years after that futile Corn Crusade waged by my father and the corn farmers, I see light at the end of the tunnel.

This ray of hope is provided by the P2.1-B Grant Fund by the European Union Delegation to the economic development of Mindanao which will be managed by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).

Among the priority projects which MinDA has identified following a consultation with stakeholders is the establishment of post-harvest and storage facilities for both rice and corn in Mindanao.

For our intervention for corn farmers, I have designed the Mindanao Corn Development Program which will involve the participation corn farmers associations and cooperatives, the private sector and the government through MinDA using the EU Grant Funds.

MinDA will propose the establishment of Corn Storage Complexes using the modern Silo systems equipped with dryers in the four major corn producing regions of Mindanao - Region IX Zamboanga Peninsula, Region X Northern Mindanao, Region XII Central Mindanao and the Bangsamoro Region.

The Corn Storage Complex with silos will be owned by the corn farmers cooperatives or associations who will be linked by MinDA to financing institutions for their operating capitals.

With the Corn Storage Complex, corn farmers could deliver their produce to their cooperatives and associations which in turn will store this under a system similar to the sugar quedan.

This will give the corn farmers a leverage in the pricing of their produce as they could hold on to their stocks and wait for a better price or enter into direct marketing agreements with institutional buyers like feed mills.

This will improve their income, increase their productivity and address poverty in the agriculture sector, especially among corn farmers.

The MinDA planning staff will work on the details of this program with the help of the corn farmers associations after which this will be included in the list of projects for funding under the EU Fund Grant.

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