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by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol

Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

The news that a source for Hass Avocado planting materials has finally been found in a backyard in Bukidnon spread like wild fire yesterday and elicited hundreds of requests for scions and planting materials from all over.

Sorry folks but the Mindanao Hass Avocado Project which is part of the Mindanao Development Authority's Green Mindanao Program will not work that way.

We are not going to introduce a program which will later end up in a mess with a deluge of complaints rather than stories of success.

This means that not everybody interested to plant Hass Avocado will be given access to the planting materials.

This will not be another "Banana Q Boom and Bust" story where everybody plants and sells the same thing simply because people say it is profitable.

In implementing the Mindanao Hass Avocado Program, MinDA will consider the following:

1. Clear definition of purpose for the project which is to provide economic activities for poor families in the highlands and to promote the planting of fruit trees in the deforested areas of Mindanao;

2. A scientific identification of the ideal areas to be planted with the help of consultants who will be engaged by MinDA early next year;

3. A scientific study of the absorptive capacity of the local market for Hass Avocado so that the area to be planted will not produce a volume that would be beyond it and cause a collapse in prices;

4. Prospective growers/farmers will be identified according to the suitability of their farms for the planting of Hass Avocado who will be linked to the off-taker or a direct buyer with a corresponding marketing agreement;

5. All the growers/farmers identified will be included in database indicating their farm location and size and will undergo technical and financial capability training;

6. MinDA's banking partner, the Development Bank of the Philippines, will be brought in to provide support funds for the program.

These are the protocols which will be observed in introducing this new agricultural industry which I believe could boost the economy of Mindanao and address the poverty in the highlands populated mainly by the Indigenous Peoples.

We have learned so many lessons in the past where poorly planned undertakings like the planting of Ramie, Jathropa and others were introduced to farmers without the benefit of a careful study.

The result was economic disaster for the poor and gullible farmers.

The Mindanao Hass Avocado Program will not go down the same road.

Watch the full video below:

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by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol

Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

When I visited the Demo Farm site for participants in the Mindanao Vegetable Derby in Barangay Miarayon, Talakag, Bukidnon yesterday, I met four technicians of East West Seeds supervising their plots planted with Carrots, Cabbage and Chinese Cabbage.

Agriculture officials of Talakag who supervise the Derby Site in Miarayon said the technicians of East West Seeds, a Philippine company, and Kaneko Seeds are among the most active participants in the first-ever Farm Demonstration and Product Quality Competition for vegetable seeds and farmers in Mindanao.

"Their technicians (East West and Kaneko) are here almost every other day to supervise their farmer-partners and constantly monitoring the performance of their seeds," said Efren Seno, an employee of Talakag Municipal Agriculture Office.

There are eight companies and groups which participated in the derby and each was given farmer-partners and areas to use in demonstration the performance of their Carrots, Cabbage and Chinese Cabbage seeds, the three vegetable varieties most commonly grown by farmers in the region.

Four towns of Bukidnon, Impasugong, Talakag, Sumilao and Lantapan which compose the IMTASULA Vegetable Complex, are participating in the Vegetable Derby initiated by the Mindanao Development Authority and supported by the Provincial Government of Bukidnon and the Department of Agriculture Regional Office X.

From Dec. 10 to 12, judges, composed of agriculture experts, will evaluate the performance of the seeds and technology of the different participants.

The best performing seeds will be given commendation and recommendation while their farmer-partners will be recognized as "King" of Carrots, Cabbage and Chinese Cabbage during the awards ceremony.

The purpose of MinDA in staging the Mindanao Vegetable Derby is to introduce quality and high-yielding seeds, along with the proper farming practices, to the farmers of the area.

This is expected to improve the vegetable quality and productivity of farmers as MinDA and Bukidnon envision the 50,000-hectare IMTASULA Complex as the country's other major source of vegetables, after the Cordillera.

MinDA is not only looking at the local market for Mindanao's vegetables and high value crops but also the ASEAN Region.

For the companies involved in the Mindanao Vegetable Derby, a commendation and recognition for their Vegetable Seeds and Farming Technology would be a big marketing boost which could improve their sales.

Watch the full video below:

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by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

Mindanao's Ube farmers who will be chosen to supply the raw materials for the production of the Mindanao Ube Jam will be the first beneficiaries in the piloting of a Farmers' Pension Fund.

The establishment of a Farmers' and Fishermen's Pension Fund has been my dream since I entered public service in 1995 and I have often wondered why government had never really considered this.

When I was Secretary of Agriculture, I directed the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, to study the feasibility of establishing a Pension Fund for farmers and fishermen so that when they grow old, they would have something to use to buy medicine and food.

The PCIC, through its President Jovy Bernabe, completed the study and crafted a proposed legislation which was submitted to representatives of the Senior Citizens Party which in turn prepared a draft bill.

It is a challenging legislation because the parameters on who would qualify for the pension fund and where the funds would be sourced or who would manage the funds will have to be established.

While waiting for that legislation, I thought of doing a pilot test of that concept where farmers and fishermen would get pension benefits.

As I prepare to launch this December the Mindanao Ube Jam, which will be produced by my workers in my farm, I thought of establishing a system where the farmers who will supply the Ube will be part of this ambitious undertaking.

This would be similar to the Pension Fund Concept and this will start with the establishment of a database for all Ube Farmers who will be chosen to supply the raw materials based on the quality of their products.

Farmers whose products would qualify for our Ube Jam processing project will be given a premium for every kilo of the purple yam bought from them.

The Premium, say P1 per kilo, will be credited to them and this could be withdrawn in lump sum after a period of 5 years.

This means that if an Ube Farmer delivered 100 metric tons of the tuber in the period of five years, he would be entitled to a "Pension Fund" of P100,000.

Since we will not be producing a lot of the Mindanao Ube Jam in the early stages of this project, initially we will only enroll 10 to 20 farmers.

I expect the Mindanao Ube Jam Project to grow big because this early, I am already receiving so many supply requests from prospective outlets, including a huge supermarket chain in the country.

Anticipating an increased demand, I have asked Mindanao inventor Engr. Rudy Cane to design for the program a semi-mechanized processing facility.

In the meantime, the production of the Mindanao Ube Jam will be done by my workers in the farm and we will start selling as soon as we obtain a Certificate of Product Registration from the Food and Drugs Administration.

If and when we are able to successfully operationalize the Ube Farmers Pension fund, I hope this will serve as a model and a template for a commodity-based national pension fund which will reward our farmers and fishermen for their sacrifices in producing food for the country.

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by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

Tomorrow, Nov. 19, I will present in the Philippine Corn Congresss the Mindanao Corn Industry Development Program which will spell out the need for the region's local government units to invest in storage facilities to boost corn production, protect farmers from price manipulation and generate revenues for the LGUs.

The MinDACorn Program is one of the advocacies pushed by the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) to turn Mindanao corn farming from a seasonal commodity to a well-organized industry.

With the support of its funding-partner, the Development Bank of the Philippines, MinDA will encourage provinces and towns producing corn to invest on a Corn Grains Storage Silos.

Under the program, LGUs will be assisted by MinDA in establishing the COGSS facility under an Economic Enterprise Program.

At peak harvest time when traders traditionally manipulate corn buying prices because of the lack of post-harvest facilities, farmers could deposit their produce in the COGSS while waiting for a better price.

Using the deposited corn as guarantee, the farmers could avail of a cash advance which will be deducted when he finally sells his produce at a better price.

The municipality of Baungon, Bukidnon will be the first Mindanao LGU to implement this program to protect corn farmers from price manipulators.

Misamis Oriental Governor Yevgeny "Bambi" Emano earlier manifested his province's interest in implementing the same program.

Four other provinces, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Bukidnon and North Cotabato, have been identified for the same program proposed to be funded by the European Union Grant under the Mindanao Rise Program.

Baungon Mayor Giovanni Dahino said the Baungon COGGS will also offer seeds, fertilizers, tractor and harvesting facilities payable after harvest.

MinDA aims to convince other corn-growing LGUs in Mindanao to establish the COGSS and create a network of LGUs inter-connected by a digital platform to manage supply and prices.

All Corn Farmers participating in the program will be introduced to digital agriculture where they will have direct access to latest production innovations and market data.

The program is expected to benefit not only the farmers but the end users like feedmills too because of stable and sustainable corn supply.

When established in the whole Mindanao, all corn-producing provinces and towns with the COGSS facility will be interconnected through a digital platform which will provide an accurate information on prevailing market prices and the volume of production.

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by Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol
Chairman, Mindanao Development Authority

The "Southern Swing," a strategy adopted by the Department of Agriculture which involves the opening and development of potential agricultural areas in impoverished provinces, starts on Dec. 20 when the DA and the Philippine Rice Research Institute develop at least 200 hectares of rice farms in four towns in Northern and Eastern Samar.

The towns include Catubig, Las Navas and Mapanas in Northern Samar and Jipapad in Eastern Samar which was hit by Typhoon Samuel a month ago.

Under the Supervised Rice Farming Scheme, the landowners will be asked to enter into an agreement with the DA and PhilRice for the development of their area into a Model Rice Farm.

The DA and PhilRice, using their technical staff and local manpower, will develop at least 50 hectares each in the four towns where modern rice farming technology using farm machinery, small irrigation systems and outstanding rice seeds will be introduced.

All expenses will be covered by the two agencies which after harvest will quantify the cost of the equipment services and deduct it from the gross earnings.

The remaining production which will be bought by ChinYe Agricultural Corporation based in Alangalang, Leyte at an agreed price will be divided between the landowners and the DA-PhilRice Management Group with 70% going to the landowner.

The ChinYe Agricultural Corporation is owned by a French businessman, Patrick Renucci, and his Filipino-Chinese wife, Rachel Renucci-Tan.

The couple established a state-of-the-art Rice Processing Center in Alangalang, Leyte costing about P1-B and acquired farm equipment and machinery which they allow the farmers to use.

Earnings by the DA-PhilRice Management Group will be plowed back into the project for the development of more areas in the next planting season.

The "Southern Swing" Initiative of the DA aims to develop at least 300,000 hectares of new rice farms in the Southern Provinces of the country to compensate for the projected damage by typhoons every year on crops in the Northern Luzon Area.

In Samar, the targeted area is 100,000-hectares which at an average production of 6-metric tons per hectare would produce an additional 600,000-Metric Tons of Palay or 390,000-Metric Tons of milled rice.

Other areas identified in the "Southern Swing" Initiative are Western Visayas, Mindoro and Palawan, Central Mindanao, Lanao del Sur, Bukidnon and the Zamboanga Peninsula.

The targeted 300,000-hectares of new rice areas are scheduled to be fully developed by 2020.

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