Ambitious plans in agriculture have been voiced by incoming Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol of the Duterte administration. He said he would increase the area for rice production, pay attention to irrigation, farm-to-market roads, access to financing, markets and the like.
Let me just leave those to the big shots in agriculture. Those support services have been discussed over and over again. And let me just write about projects that are doable by small entrepreneurs, also with ample support from the government. After all DA is not lacking in money that has to be channeled to the right projects.
We are thinking of the commercialization of the products of research by government scientists. One example is the improved mallard ducks by the National Swine and Poultry Research and Development in Tiaong, Quezon. They developed three new pure lines of the native “itik” which are true-to-type with 72% egg production compared to the 50-55% egg production of the ordinary itik.
Now, the government should pour its millions to accelerate the multiplication of the improved ducks to make them available to the farmers. This can benefit both the small farmers and the commercial growers. Duck raising for egg production is viable enterprise. Ordinary farmers will find it easy to take care of the ducks. Housing is very simple and feeds can be supplemented with forage crops. The market is there. Eggs for balut and for salted duck eggs are in short supply so that the farmgate price is P6.80 to P7 per piece today. That’s a very profitable level.
HOT PEPPER – Growing hot pepper as a cooperative effort in communities can pay off. Hot pepper commands a much higher price than the “pinakbet” vegetables (ampalaya, sitao, tomato, etc) whose price could tumble when there is an oversupply. As per the experience of Jess Domingo, the lowest price the hot chilli can get is P50 per kilo. When the supply is scarce, the price could go up to P1,000 per kilo or even more.
At P50 per kilo of fresh chilli fruits, it is still profitable. But the good thing about it is that the fruits can be processed into hot chilli flakes for added value. A kilo of fresh chilli fruits can be worth P400 when processed into flakes, according to Jess Domingo. The flakes also have a long shelf life. Processing is simple. Domingo can share his experience and he can also help in marketing.
To achieve big volume, several farmers in a community can form some kind of an association so that they will produce the hot chilli together and market the same as a group. They themselves can also do the processing.
OTHER SPECIALTY FARM PRODUCE – Clusters of farmers could be encouraged to produce specialty crops or farm animals that they can market at a premium price. Examples: Ubi which is in big demand by processors; native chickens that are of uniform quality; organic pigs, grass-fed cattle, and so on.
As always, the government should lend assistance in the form of technology, financing and marketing. The right policies and incentives can go a long way in improving the economic conditions of the usually under-privileged members of the farming community