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Freeman Cebu Business

Snail-paced Philippines agri sector covers 30% of labor force

Carlo S. Lorenciana - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines – An official from Nestlé Philippines Inc. underscored the slow growth of the country's agriculture sector although it is the second biggest employer.

Speaking during the coffee industry investment forum in Cebu City last Friday, Ruth Novales, vice president and corporate affairs executive, noted that agriculture industry accounts for 30.7 percent in employment while services and industry accounts for 52.8 percent and 16.4 percent, respectively.

Novales stressed that low farm productivity is still the country's major weakness.

She said that agriculture as a sector is declining, noting that it grew by only 1.9 percent in 2014, the slowest growth among the three major economic sectors.

Showing data, Novales said that in corn, coconut, cassava and coffee production, for instance, the Philippines has the lowest yield – in metric tons per hectare – compared to its neighbors Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Novales primarily attributed the low productivity to the country's weak resilience to climate change, noting that 64 percent of farm owners experience destruction due to natural calamities.

Nestlé, a global food and beverage company, is concerned about the agriculture sector because, according to Novales, the farmers' business is the firm's business also.

Nestlé is the Philippines' biggest buyer of Robusta coffee beans and top coffee processor.

Novales said the firm supports the move to revive the country's coffee industry.

The Philippines now supplies less than 1 percent of the world's coffee, having once been the fourth largest global producer of the commodity.

Some of the company's interventions, she said, are its technical assistance and training to farmers and plantlet production and technology.

Nestlé also has direct coffee buying stations in various parts of the country to allow local farmers sell their produce straight to the company without going through middlemen. This also allows the sharing of good farming practices to coffee growers.

The beverage company sources green coffee beans directly from local producers for its factories. (FREEMAN)

ATILDE

CEBU CITY

COFFEE

COUNTRY

NESTL

NOVALES

PERCENT

PHILIPPINES INC

ROBUSTA

RUTH NOVALES

THAILAND AND VIETNAM

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