The name of the game in Agriculture is enhanced competitiveness. This means higher yields and higher quality of farm products that cost less to produce.
There are enough new and old technologies as well as creative strategies to achieve greater competitiveness in the local and world markets.
In rice production, for instance, mechanization is the key to profitability. Direct seeding can now be mechanized, so is transplanting, spraying, harvesting and drying of palay. Agri-Tech Integrated Services Corporation (Atisco) has proven in its operation in Mindoro that it can produce palay at a cost of P5 to P7 per kilo with full mechanization. This is much cheaper than the average of P12 per kilo cost of palay production in the Philippines.
LIVESTOCK – In livestock, the key to greater competitiveness is the availability of affordable nutritious feeds. Today, many smallhold farmers can only take care of one or two head of cattle in their backyard because they don’t have available supply of feeds during the summer months. Now, there is a promising solution to this problem. This is the formulation of silage with enhanced nutritional value through the incorporation of soya and copra plus probiotics. The group of Dr. Ronaldo Sumaoang (microbiologist) and Eugene Gabriel of Agricomp (experts in farm mechanization) will now produce the improved silage for cattle, goats, sheep and even for free-range native pigs.
With the improved silage, smallhold farmers will now be able to take care of not just one or two cows in their backyard. They could take care of five or more animals, thus increasing significantly the livestock population in the country. Of course, the farmers will also make more money.
HIGH-VALUE CROPS – In vegetables and other high-value crops, the key to greater competitiveness is the use of hybrid varieties. It has been proven that the new varieties developed by such seed companies as East-West, Allied Botanical, Ramgo and others are making many farmers, including the smallholders, financially independent.
The hybrid crops that are making farmers rich include, ampalaya, tomato, peppers (sweet and hot), eggplant, sitao, cucumber, pumpkin, okra, gourd, patola, leafy greens and many others. There are also high-yielding papaya hybrids, melons and watermelons as well as sweet corn in the market today.
WHAT GOVERNMENT SHOULD DO – What the government should do is to improve farm-to-market roads, fix irrigation systems, put up “bagsakan” centers for fresh farm produce, help the farmers access low-interest financing, provide skills training in crop and livestock production.
These are just a few key suggestions. Of course, there could be many more avenues for enhancing competitiveness of Filipino farmers in the local and export markets.