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Opinion

Lessons

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Back when cockfighting and gamefowl farms were still legal in some states in the US, my Tito Serge would visit a well-known breeder who became a good friend over the years.

One time, the American breeder asked: “Hey Sergio, how often do you go to your farm?”

To this, Tito Serge replied “About two to three times a week.”

“And how long do you stay on the average?”

“Oh, probably for the day or when schedule allows, maybe overnight.”

When he heard this, the veteran cockfighter said: “Listen to me, Sergio. Until you decide to live in the farm, you will never become a good chicken man.”

Ten years later, Tito Serge confessed to me that if he had followed that advise, he would have been happier, healthier and “a good chicken man” much faster.

I myself have seen the difference in the things I do and the quality of results when I actually “live it” or “live in it.” I would not have accomplished what I managed to achieve building resorts, vintage car restorations or establishing my “seed game fowl farm” where I collect old and now rare bloodlines of sabong breeds. When everything is in view, when you go up and down the path, go around the things you are working on, you do a better job and catch problems on time.

This is one lesson PBBM needs to take to heart as acting secretary of agriculture. It is not enough that you want the best and give the department all your support. If it’s your job, only you should be doing it. If you can’t do it, appoint someone to do it.

It reminds me of a former secretary of health, who was in the habit of verbally stating his support for agencies and their officers under his command but would never be seen in the frontline or taking up the fight when critics, corrupt personnel or legislators would pummel them in public. His people always got bullied and attacked, but he was always out of the scrimmage or firing line.

As a result, several agencies and bureaus became convenient targets or whipping boys for people looking for a means or an excuse to be on TV or the news and demoralized many officials during his administration.

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Recently a friend called me past my bedtime and blurted out how right I was when I advised him not to get into agriculture now because the environment was so toxic in terms of smuggling and, according to legit importers, corruption among customs and BIR personnel, as well as the intense bureaucratic money-making practices of the DA that makes them more of a hindrance than a help.

It seems my friend did not even get that far into the war zone. After conducting consultations, market studies and gathering all the government requirements to be an accredited importer, my friend was so overwhelmed that he shifted to planting seven hectares to corn in Batangas province. He had the land, and since everybody says that planting corn is a lot easier than planting rice, raising poultry or operating a piggery, he went and did it.

And that was why he was calling me late in the evening. He was driving home to Manila after visiting his planted corn that was nearing harvest, only to discover that worms had invaded all the corn and started to eat through the cobs. Whoever did the planting and management of the seven hectares did not know much about scheduled or programmed spraying against bugs and worms.

How was a city slicker like him supposed to know that there were programmed spraying requirements for fertilizer, mildew, bugs and worms. He thought that the locals he hired knew it all but apparently, they never got any training except from hand-me-down tales. All he could do was to release all the chicks in his farm to eat up the worms.

That to him was an acceptable solution so that the worms become a source of protein for his gamefowl chicks. Unfortunately, I had to point out to him that releasing chicks into an open field would then attract crows, field rats, bayawaks or monitor lizards and sawas or phytons as well as humans who will target the chicks and each other. It was equivalent to presenting an eat-all-you-can selection for mice and men!

Had my friend known, heard of or managed to find a field extension worker to advise him on the proper planting and care for corn, chances are he would have had bigger corn cobs and kept them worm- or bug-free.

Ever since the days of devolution, the Department of Agriculture has not been motivated to push for the retention of or expansion in the number of extension workers for plant and livestock management. This has been left by the DA to technician/sales coordinators who sell seeds, fertilizer or pesticides.

You can YouTube all you want but nothing beats science and technical experience. So, I told my friend to call me when he has free time, and I will introduce him to Toto Barcelona of Harbest who has everything he needs, from technicians to seeds to machinery, etc. Just because he failed on the first try does not mean he should give up. It’s a reminder, I have been giving to backyard hog raisers or people thinking of getting into backyard livestock and poultry raising during our BMeg Fiestahans.

Look at your failed attempts as nothing more than your entry fee or your tuition fee for learning. From there go online to find programs and information provided by companies such as BMeg and San Miguel and ask for help! Consult with the experts, work out a plan with their advice and then try it out on a small scale. God bless!

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E-mail: [email protected]

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