Despite…there’s still some good news

BUSINESS and LEISURE - Ray Butch Gamboa - The Philippine Star

There is just so much going on in our country. Our economy is in the doldrums, the peso is at its lowest in 10 years, criminals are getting bolder, shooting down mayors in cold blood. One of them was a long time and very dear friend, Tanauan Mayor Tony Halili. Our heartfelt condolence goes to the family.

With all the bad news going around, we fail to see the good news that is also rising in our midst. Some people in the government service are actually doing their job notwithstanding the backlash of TRAIN—news in the agricultural front for instance.

The coffee industry has never been as good as it is now, globally and even here at home. More and more people are more conscious of what good coffee is and our coffee farmers are finally reaping the benefits. Nestle Philippines is teaming up with the Department of Agriculture to assist farmers through the Production Loan Easy Access Program of the Agricultural Credit Policy Council. Coffee farmers in Bukidnon got the first release of their loans last April and many others will follow soon (Sultan Kudarat is next). The maximum loanable amount is P150,000 and for farmers tending coffee or other high value crops that is a big help. Those who have at least three hectares of land can apply for a loan at a low interest rate of six percent per annum, payable in two to 10 years without any collateral, depending on the commodity. Small farmers and fisher folks, on the other hand, can avail of loans up to P50,000 for their crops and livestock or for their fishing ventures. Another government agency, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) is extending its support by giving free crop insurance for farmers availing of the loans.

The Nescafe Plan is a good program that also includes access to good quality plantlets and technology training. Coffee farmers can sell their coffee beans directly to Nestle, not through middle men, through buying stations that will be put up near the coffee areas.  Meanwhile, several coffee cooperatives have also been put up across the land, proof that this sector is now thriving well.

The DA is also eyeing 1,000 hectares for coffee expansion in Davao on top of the existing 2,300 hectares already planted to coffee. About 185,000 coffee trees will be rehabilitated, which is more advantageous than replanting coffee trees which will normally take about four years to mature. Green coffee is gaining awareness across the globe and the government recognizes this, so effective branding of green coffee beans is also on the agricultural agenda.  The top producers of coffee in the land are Central Mindanao, Davao and the ARMM.

* * *

The rains came early this year, and our farmers are thanking high heavens for this because it has allowed them to replant early in rain-fed areas. Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol says this is going to be another record harvest for rice. More rice and corn farmers are also using high-yielding varieties of seeds and this has contributed to the bumper harvests in the first quarter of the year.

The promise that we will be rice sufficient just a few years back fell through again, and we are still dependent on our neighbors Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia for our rice supply.  Cambodia is ready to collaborate with the Philippine government to strengthen the two countries’ farming sector. We should be renewing our bilateral agreement on rice trade, among others. Manila is proposing an exchange of black pepper germplasm with Cambodia and training Cambodian farmers on better technology and safety practices in the seafood sector.

More on rice: Secretary Manny Piñol is eyeing the sanitary packaging of rice sold in the wet market. This is actually good news because rice would no longer be sold openly in boxes as is the practice now, open to  rats and flies and other disease-carrying insects. The packed rice sold in one to five kilo bags or even higher has standard weights and consumers would  not be prey to unscrupulous rice dealers. Packed bags of rice would also carry the miller’s name which makes it easy to trace the source in case of food safety issues.

Rice is our staple, and for many families, they can go with no viand, but rice will never be absent on the dining table.  Lowering the SRP on this staple commodity will be good news to many and the agriculture secretary is set to announce this soon, along with the SRP for other staples like galunggong and bangus. It’s about time we go after profiteers, those who prey on the marginalized in hard times.  Penalty for profiteering is a fine of P1,000 up to P1 million, so take heed.

Mabuhay!!!  Be proud to be a Filipino.

For comments (email) sunshine.television@yahoo.com; (website) www.businessandleisure.ph    

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