Photo downloaded from Pikist.com

by Secretary Emmanuel Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

The biggest problem of Mindanao's corn farmers has always been the instability of the buying price which drastically drops at peak harvest season and goes up during off-harvest period.

This problem is not new.

As a farm boy who grew up among rice and corn farmers, I saw the frustration and disappointment in the face of my late father and other farmers when their earnings after four months fell way below what they had expected.

This trapped them in an endless cycle of poverty where they borrowed money to plant and paid back with what they harvested, oftentimes leaving them in deep debt.

This explains the poverty among corn farmers and the lack of enthusiasm to produce more.

The solution to the problem is not a mystery.

Everybody knows what they are - access to credit, dryers, storage facilities and access to direct buyers.

While it sounds so simple, doing it may not be very easy.

First, we have to liberate our corn farmers from the shackles of the village traders who also provide seeds, fertilizers and cash advances at usurious rates.

Second, we have to organize them into viable cooperatives or associations to give them access to credit, especially for good seeds and farm inputs.

Third, Corn Storage Complexes complete with modern dryers and silos must be established in at least four or five regions in Mindanao.

Fourth, we have link up the corn farmers cooperatives or associations to government lending institutions, like the Development Bank of the Philippines because it is the partner bank of the Mindanao Development Authority.

Fifth, there has to be a strong marketing link between the corn farmers cooperatives and the direct buyers, like feed mills, so that the farmers will be assured of a stable price.

Of course, a very important component of this program is the continuing technology and financial capability training for farmers.

These measures are the salient features of the Mindanao Corn Development Program which MinDA is crafting and which will be submitted as a priority project for inclusion in the Mindanao Peace and Development Program (MINPAD) or Rise Mindanao.

It will involve the establishment of farmers association-owned Grains Storage Complexes complete with modern dryers and silos in at least four corn-producing regions of Mindanao.

The main source of funds eyed for the infrastructure component of the program, including capability training, will be the P2.1-B Grant from the European Union which MinDA will implement and manage over the next five years.

Funding for its operation will be sourced from government financing institutions like DBP.

The private sector will also play a role as the marketing partners of the farmers cooperatives.

With a stable price for their corn produce, farmers are expected to produce more thus ensuring the industries relying on corn like poultry, livestock and cooking oil manufacturers of a steady supply.

Mindanao as of today produces roughly half of the total corn production of the country but this could still be boosted with the implementation of the Mindanao Corn Development Program, a wholistic approach in increasing productivity and reducing poverty in the agriculture sector.

This will also ensure food security for Mindanao and propel the economy adversely affected by the pandemic.

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