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Paje bats for oil palm plantations on idle land

By Bobby Lagsa
Inquirer Mindanao

5:51 pm | Thursday, May 22nd 2014

 

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines—Environment Secretary Ramon Paje proposed the conversion of some eight million hectares of idle, denuded and unproductive lands across the country into oil palm plantations.

Paje, who attended the launching of the Mindanao Barangay  (village) StraTreegic Forest Project here, said the country was losing P800 billion each year in production opportunities from land left idle.

Paje said the prospects of generating more cash out of  idle land could be gleaned from the experience of Indonesia, which he said makes up to $50 billion a year although  it has only six million hectares planted to oil palm.

“That is almost the same as our national budget,” Paje said.

Paje said that if plans push through, the country could be earning more than Indonesia does from oil palm plantations.

But Paje’s proposal was met with cold shoulders here.

For Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) Region 10 director and environmentalist Orlando Ravanera, food security and ecological integrity should be the government’s focus.

Ravanera said that converting idle and denuded land into palm oil plantations was not in line with the food security and ecological integrity that the BSFP aimed for.

“Land should be used for food security, not for biofuel,” Ravanera added.

Ravanera said the government should make sure that the people eat sufficiently as land use is a matter of survival.

Bishop Melmar Labuntog of the United Church of Christ in Cagayan de Oro, who is also chairman of the Panalipdan Mindanao (Defend Mindanao), said idle land should be planted to food crops to feed the country.

Labuntog said that instead of planting oil palm on denuded land, reforestation should be undertaken to ensure ecological balance that would help farmers yield more.

Ravanera said one factor in the decreasing food production was the failure of logging companies to replant as agreed, and the continued operation of illegal loggers.

He urged Paje to strictly implement environmental laws and said reforestation was a must.

“DENR should reforest the land and not plant palm. That is the mandate of the DENR,” Ravanera said.
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SUMMARY:  In a study on how oil palm farming affects farmers, the author came with this interesting discovery.  A poor Muslim farmer struggling to provide his big family three meals a day, Mr. Jose Sagadan of Dunguan, Mlang, North Cotabato planted eight hectares of oil palm on plant-now-pay-later (PNPL).  He earned high income which enabled him to buy enough nutritious food for his family, support the college education of his five children who finished degrees in Law, Accounting, Social Services, Physical Therapy and Pharmacy.  His income from oil palm enabled him to renovate an old wooden house, buy a brand new pick-up vehicle and expand the oil palm farm.  He also created employment and livelihood opportunities to his barangay-mates.  Many of his neighbors followed his footsteps leading to the transformation of a community composed of 100% Muslim which was a part of Liguasan Marsh brushland, from economically depressed and rebel hideout into a progressive and peaceful community. The success of Mr. Sagadan is now being duplicated in some municipalities of Cotabato like Alamada, Tulunan, Antipas, Arakan, etc. who planted oil palm on PNPL.  These farmers confirm the transferability of the strategy used by the government of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in overcoming poverty using oil palm farming in the Philippine setting.

 

Mr. Sagadan and company shows that overcoming rural poverty is not an elusive dream for the Philippines.  Government interventions are necessary.  The two major interventions – providing the farmers with quality planting materials through the plant-now-pay-later (PNPL) and providing adequate extension services to capacitate the farmers to use good agricultural practices (GAP) for sustainable high yield and income.  It is recommended that these interventions be piloted on a wider scale in the province of North Cotabato as a step towards national adoption of a strategy to overcome poverty, produce prosperous and peaceful communities, and help overcome the huge vegetable oil shortage of the country.  Such will meet the objectives of PCA in its roadmap to plant 350,000 ha of oil palm from 2014 to 2023 to overcome the increasing huge shortage on vegetable oil in the country.( To read more, please click the link below.)

PALM OIL PLANT PUSHED: Mayor Rody to ask NPA to give way to project in Paquibato

Monday, 05 May 2014 21:28

By ARMANDO B. FENEQUITO JR.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte will ask the New People’s Army (NPA) to make way for

the proposed establishment of a palm oil plantation in Paquibato district which he considers

beneficial to the local residents, including rebels. Duterte earlier bared that a Malaysian firm

expressed interest to pour in investments for palm oil production. The investment could amount

to staggering capital and should be a possible catalyst for economic activity in the rebel-infested

area.

“Makigstorya kong Parago (Leoncio Pitao), ingnon nako na kamo mga taga Paquibato bah

magstorya ta pasudlon nato ni – undang una sila’g giyera, ilubong nila ilang armas, ihatag nako

sa ila,” Duterte said, referring to the commander of the NPA operating in the area.

He said that if the proposed investment project pushes through, he will make an arrangement

with the company that will only hire workers who are residents in the area,

“Ihatag nako sa NPA ihatag ninyo kamong – pagsabot mo sa NPA diha. Para walay samok,”

Duterte said.

Aside from the Malaysian firm, Duterte said that San Miguel Corporation has also expressed

interest to invest in the area where it needs at least 1000 hectares.

“Di ko mangayog surrender… undangon nato ang gyera, pasudla ang kwarta, pasudla ang mga

Malaysians og ang San Miguel,” he said.

Duterte, however, urged the NPA not to impose revolutionary tax to the investors.

“Kana lang kamoy motrabaho, inyo tanan ang trabaho ninyo hasta ang ilang planta inyo na

didto man na siya galingon kuhaon na ang oil. Di mi manghilabot ayaw lang ng taxation – di

man gyud – kinsa may mo sugot ana,” Duterte emphasized.

Duterte said he will also request President Benigno S. Aquino III and Armed Forces of the

Philippines chief of staff to consider his proposed arrangement.

“Hangyo ko kang Presidente and military na dili na sila hilabtan taguan lang ang armas ilubong

ninyo suwayi daw ninyo ang naay sweldo,” he said.

The coconut tree and oil palm tree are cousins belonging to one plant family – Palmae.  The main product of both crops is vegetable oils with increasing huge global demand.   Each is a major crop of two neighboring ASEAN countries, Malaysia and the Philippines; Malaysia grows 5.5 million ha of oil palm trees occupying  66% of its agricultural land while the Philippines grows 3.56 million ha of coco trees approximately 30% of its crop lands.

 

Today an average coco farm of 2.5 ha in the Philippines provides a net income of less than P40,000/year; the same size of Malaysian oil palm farm provide a farmer an income of more than P380,000/year.  By the year 2020 the average income of a coco farm in the Philippines is projected to remain the same or decrease further – among the lowest farm income in the ASEAN; the Malaysian government is implementing a unique oil palm roadmap; the same farm size of Malaysian oil palm in 2020 shall provide a typical farmer an income of US$ 15,000 or P670,000/year, the highest farm income in the ASEAN.  While the Filipino coco farmers shall become poorer; the rich Malaysian oil palm farmers shall become richer.  The reason is not due to the kind of palm – both palms have hybrid varieties with potential high yields to give small farmers high income.  It is the contrasting government programs for palm farming which make the increasing farm income gap.

 

When the oil palm trees reach the declining yield at 25 years the Malaysian government capacitates the farmers to cut the trees and replace with more productive oil palm hybrid plants.  In three years, the farm becomes more productive than before.  The focal program of the Malaysian government is to make the farmers become richer.  In doing so the farmer is benefited – inclusive growth towards industrialization.  In contrast a Filipino farmer with old coco trees – 35 years and above of declining productivity is prohibited by a Philippine law to cut his coco trees.    The purpose of the Philippine government is to slow down the declining total copra production for export to generate foreign exchange; in doing so the coco farmers become poorer.  More than 60% coconut trees in the country are past the 35 years old, many almost century old trees thus giving the coco farmers with continuing decreasing low yield and income; also declining national total production – 35% less this year than that of last year.

 

The Malaysians continue to improve the oil palm hybrids and the production system that goes with the hybrid through extensive R&D; improve oil palm hybrid are readily made available to farmers coupled with adequate nutrition to ensure high yields.  Research on coconut in the country is practically on the stand still.  Moreover, the Philippine government suspended the production and distribution of coco hybrid seedlings for reason that the hybrids require fertilizers which the farmers are too poor to provide and which the government has no plan to capacitate the farmers to provide the coco plants.  In place the government distributes in trickle the low yielding and long maturing coconut varieties whose yield potential is not expressed due to no or inadequate fertilization.  By not fertilizing or replacing the nutrients taken by the coco trees, the coco farmers unknowingly “rob” the future generations of coco farmers of the just and sustainable coconut yield; the nutrients in the soil being “mined” by the coconut trees without replacement.   Sons and daughters of coco farmers are ashamed to stay in the farm like their coco fathers in poverty.

 

The best big coco farm which uses the best Philippine developed coco hybrids under the World Bank loan is found not in the Philippines but in a large United Plantations Berhad in Perak, Malaysia.  In this plantation, a model for a coco hybrid production, trees are provided with adequate fertilizers for high copra yield of over six tons/ha per year, consequently high income for the plantation.

 

Malaysian oil palm farmers easily access from well-trained and regularly updated village-based technicians the science of good farming practices including adequate fertilization for long years of sustainable oil palm yield and to benefit current farmers and future generations.  Many Filipino coco farmers still acquire and believe in unscientific lessons from their grandparents and parents teaching them that fertilization is not good for the palms.  The belief is that, the coconut trees will “tampo” or bears no fruits when fertilizer is applied and then stopped.  As the saying goes the coconut farmers are not alone.  What the government does to coco palm is also being done to practically all upland crops like rubber another crop which make the Malaysian farmers rich but not the Filipinos.  Nobody who is holding a key government position cares in the implementation of the RA 10089 – suppose to develop the Philippine Rubber Industry which could benefit thousands of Filipino poor upland farmers to transform them from poverty to prosperity.

 

That’s the tale of the two outstanding tropical palms – one being used by a country to make a rich farmer become richer; another being used, maybe unknowingly, by a country to make a poor farmer remain poorer.  By the year 2016, a typical Filipino coco farmer shall become among the poorest farmers in the ASEAN possibly unable to have adequate income to buy enough rice for his family in a country with hopefully shall have abundant rice. Unfortunately the need of the Filipino upland farmers is more than just rice which cannot be met by national rice sufficiency in 2016.  By then the tale of the two palms shall become a tale of neighboring countries in overcoming poverty – one successful, another a failure in agricultural development.

  

Dr. Pablito P. Pamplona, the author, once a DA Outstanding Agricultural Scientist Awardee in 1997, now a coco, oil palm and rubber farmer using technologies generated largely in Malaysia and transferable to the Philippine condition.  He wrote this article to give hope to the coconut farmers.

ON THE LAUNCHING OF THE PHILIPPINE PALM OIL INDUSTRY ROADMAP

13  December 2013, Dohera Hotel, Mandaue City

Pablito P. Pamplon, Ph.D.

Secretary and BOD, PPDCI

 

On behalf of the PPDCI, we offer our congratulations and commendation to PCA for launching the palm oil roadmap.  This provides many Filipinos the hope for a better future with your vision and mission to develop the oil palm industry.

 

This is a big day for PCA in a big hotel, Dohera Hotel, in this great historical City, Mandaue City with the launching of the document for the development of the Philippine palm oil industry from this date to the year 2020.  You provide a victory for many firstly, for PPDCI which advocated the use of the oil palm as a tool for high farm productivity and income to overcome poverty and food shortage particularly vegetable oil.  By your action, you shall give the benefits of high income of oil palm farming to the Filipino farmers rather than to the Malaysian oil palm farmers brought about by the big palm oil import of the Philippines from Malaysia.

 

Secondly, this is also a day of victory for PCA and DTI as both of you joined forces in embracing a complementary vegetable oil crop to overcome the huge vegetable oil import of the Philippines now at P27.5 billion, and to increase in 2020 to P54.5 billion.  You are providing upland farmers with a strategic crop for high income in this country which is now beseech with the problem of having the lowest farm productivity in the neighboring ASEAN.    In this context, the biggest victors in today’s launching of the oil palm roadmap are the poor upland Filipino farmers – who needs PCA’s support to help transform them from poverty to prosperity.

 

Why is PCA support mean by the small upland farmers?  Oil palm is the most productive vegetable oil crop in the world with huge demand for food, biofuel and future source of bioenergy.  Moreover, oil palm is considered as the most if not one of the most profitable crops of the tropics today back-up by sophisticated yield highly production technologies which is easy to smallholers.  The small farmers by themselves would not be able to plant this crop due to initial cost of production.  PCA by its mandate and resources is in the best position to capacitate farmers to plant oil palm through the availability of planting materials and with appropriate extension services to enable farmers to plant the crop and use good agricultural practices for high yield and income similar to what is being obtained by small farmers in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Moreover, the success in oil palm farming can also be used as model for improving the productivity of the coconut trees.  For example I’m using oil palm farming a model to develop a highly productive coconut model farm.  The modeling is a modification of what the King of Thailand did in helping small coco farmers in Thailand cultivate an aggregate areas of 35,000 ha for high income, more than the income obtained by a typical oil palm farmer in that country.  The model showcase coco farmers who become millionaire side by side with oil palm rich farmers.  My vision is that in four years a 3.0 ha coconut sweet juice and aromatic coco farm shall earn 2.0 million/year similar to many coconut farmers we documented in Thailand and Malaysia.  We can also use the master plan of the Malaysian oil palm industry to improve the roadmap of the Philippine palm oil industry.  The mechanical fruit harvester in oil palm to coconut for reduces cost of production to increase profitability.

 

With the launching of this roadmap, PCA comes with a unique mission and vision – that of helping farmers earn high income high enough to be able to buy nutritious food, build concrete houses, and provide advance education to their children.  This is more than just providing the poor Filipino farmers with sufficiency rice on his table for him and his family.  This makes you at PCA having a better vision than DA which apparently limited itself to rice sufficiency as the focal point of P’noy terms.  This country for sure need the DA program of rice self-sufficiency – but more than that the country needs vegetable oil from oil palm plus the prosperity of the upland communities by farmers engage in oil palm farming to provide a good price support of the rice produce by the rice farmers.

 

Again, on behalf of PPDCI our congratulations to PCA in partnership with DTI for the launching of the palm oil roadmap.  Merry Christmas to all!!!

  1. I.                   INTRODUCTION

 

When the National Statistics and Coordinating Board (NCSB) came out in May 2012 with data indicating the high incidence of poverty and unemployment in the country President Benigno C. Aquino III opened the venue for recommendation on how to overcome these problems.  Various recommendations were published in the newspapers, many dealing on how the manufacturing, industry and service sectors should help solve the problems.   The State-of-the-Nation Address of President Benigno Aquino III on July 2, 2013 discussed very little on how the agriculture industry should be used as a tool of overcoming unemployment and poverty.  Hence, this recommendation.

 

This paper discusses the current state of the agriculture industry which cause high incidence of poverty and unemployment.  Roughly 60% of the Philippine population depends on income and employment in agriculture with generally very low productivity bringing low farmers’ income below the poverty threshold level.  The reasons for these low productivity and income are discussed.  Recommendations are made to develop a modern agriculture industry responsive to provide the need for high income and employment.  These include the utilization of the vast idle upland and the conversion of upland grown to crops with low productivity to commercial tree crops with high productivity and farmers’ income.  Moreover, an intervention is needed to overcome the decreasing productivity of the coconut trees causing the poor coconut farmers increasingly become poorer.  The major components include promoting adequate fertilization, massive production and distribution of high yielding hybrid seed nuts and intercropping of high value crops when possible.  Suggestion is made on how to best use the P70 billion unfrozen coconut levy fund.

                                               

1/ The author is a retired Professor and Director of Research of the University of Southern Mindanao in Kabacan, Cotabato.  Early this year, he received the DA-Khush Award of Distinction – the highest award given to a crop scientist by the Federation of Crop Science Society of the Philippines (FCSSP) to honor individuals whose outstanding contribution to crop science and the industry in the Philippines have made significant impact on agriculture, particularly in improving the welfare of the small Filipino farmers.  Previous to this, he received the National Outstanding Agricultural Scientist Award and the Outstanding Philippine Civil Service Award both in Malacañan Palace.  He is currently involved in diversified commercial tree crop farming and in the establishment of demo /model farms for the upland poor farmers including the IPs (Indigenous Peoples) to follow.

  1. II.                ONCE A GREAT AGRI-COUNTRY, NOW NO MORE

 

In coming out with the effective strategies on how the agriculture sector shall help overcome unemployment and poverty, it is important to look back at where the Philippine agriculture was, the shortcomings committed so as not to perpetuate but correct them.

 

The Philippines was once a great agricultural country in the 1970s to the early 1990s.  It was looked up by other developing countries as model in agricultural

development and productivity.  One time during those years the Philippines surprised the whole world by overcoming rice shortage using an innovative strategy.  It tapped the expertise and resources of the large business communities, mostly base in Makati, to helped produced surplus rice for the country for several years.

 

The author is reminded of UP Los Baños where he finished both his master and doctoral degrees.  UPLB was then a model for agricultural research and education.  Many of his classmates at UPLB were from developing countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America.  Majority where scholars of their government studying the Philippine success stories in agriculture to serve as models in their country.  Well-equipped facilities, mostly grant from the World Bank and highly-trained educated professors at UPLB, many with advanced degrees from the top agricultural universities in USA, taught dynamic and relevant strategic lessons in agricultural development.  These world-class scientists made many outstanding scientific breakthroughs.  Examples are Dr. Emerita de Guzman who discovered the 100% production of makapuno nuts in every coconut tree; Dr. Ramon Barba who discovered the flower induction of carabao mango paving the way for the current leadership of the country in the commercial production of carabao mango.

 

Presently, few foreign graduate students come to UPLB mostly studying rice production in cooperation with IRRI.  Philippine agriculture and its agricultural education system become outdated; less relevant to the needs of developing countries.  It failed to implement critical and strategic measures to maintain its leadership in agriculture.  It is no longer the source of advance knowledge, technologies and innovations responsive to the new and changing opportunities of modern agriculture – more diversified and with the enclosure of upland commercial tree crop farming for high farm productivity, farmers’ income and employment.  Neighboring countries have responded better to these new opportunities.

 

Leadership in agriculture demands not just quantity but quality manpower – top caliber scientists and updated modern R & D facilities.  In these areas the Philippines is now lagging behind its neighbors.  The country for decades has the lowest expenditure to R & D approximately ¼ of what the neighboring countries spent in relation to the country’s GDP.  It lacks critical high level of manpower to conduct R & D and occupy managerial position in upland agriculture for a highly productive and competitive commercial tree crop farming.  Few scientists who finished advance degrees specialization in these crops in 1970 to 1980s have now retired leaving a vacuum of scientific leadership in the development of these crops towards high productivity and global competitiveness.

 

In the frequent visit of the author to neighboring countries, he noted that UPLB is no match even to the regional quality manpower and facilities of agricultural universities and R & D centers in Malaysia and Thailand.  After decades of neglect, Philippine agriculture remains largely a rice, corn and coconut industry of decreasing productivity and farmers’ income.  It is a country of both large idle and underutilized uplands and uplands grown to crops with low productivity and farmers’ income causing widespread poverty.

 

 

  1. III.             LOW FARM PRODUCTIVITY DOMINATES PHILIPPINE AGRICULTURE

 

Due to the failure of the Philippines to upgrade its agricultural commensurate to meet the opportunities of the time, it has now been overtaken by neighboring countries in farm productivity, agriculture export, net agricultural export and overall per capita income as shown in Table 1.  A careful study of the economic development of these neighboring countries shows that much government resources have been poured in during the last three to four decades in crop diversification and with the enclosure of high income commercial tree crops for job generation, poverty reduction and for global competitiveness.  Consequently, these countries have transformed the predominantly depressed to productive upland communities through highly profitable commercial tree farming side by side with crops for food security.

 

Table 1.  The Philippine agriculture/economic situation compare with its neighbors.  The Philippine has the lowest agric productivity, agricultural export and food export compare to the neighboring ASEAN.

 

COUNTRIES

FARM PRODUCTIVITY

US$, (2009)

(Income/ha/yr)*

AGRICULTURAL

EXPORTS (US$ BILLION, 2009)*

NET AGRI GOOD EXPORT OR IMPORTER? US$ BILLION***

2009

CAPITA INCOME

(US$)

  1. Philippines

340

4.0

Net importer = >1.0

2,600***

  1. Indonesia

650

11.0

Net exporter = 12.9

4,161

  1. Thailand

1760

31.0

Net exporter = 16.6

8,051

  1. Vietnam

1063

34.0

Net exporter = 5.6

2,942

*    Asian Development Bank

**     University of ASIA and the Pacific

***    Fitch data (March 2013)

Farm productivity is an indicator of the farmers’ income – what a farmer in the Philippines gets from his land which is limited to three ha under the Agrarian Reform Law.  The Philippines farm productivity as indicated in Table 1 is only US$ 340/ha per year, meaning that a farmer with three hectares, earns US$ 1022/year or equivalent to P 43,869/year – much below the poverty threshold level of P93,852 prescribed by the NSCB for 2012.  Almost all coconut farms and many of the agricultural uplands are grown to crops with low productivity.

 

Poverty level in the Philippines is the highest among the neighboring countries mainly because the farm productivity of the Philippine agriculture is very low; roughly one-half that of Indonesia, one third of Vietnam and one-fourth of Thailand.   Thailand which depended on the Philippines for the agricultural education of its leaders up to 1980s is now the acknowledged world leader in crop diversification to high income upland tree crops.  It surpassed both Malaysia and Indonesia in the volume of rubber produced – one of the major reasons for its becoming the main center in the ASEAN for car and light vehicle assembly.

 

One of the indicators of the progress of the agricultural industry is the production of food surplus for export.  The agricultural export of the Philippine is still in one digit, the three other neighboring countries are having big double digits (Table 1).  Consequently the Philippines is the only net food importer with the lowest GNP in the region.  Among the biggest food export of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand is the vegetable oil in the form of palm oil.  The Philippines on the otherhand imported P27.50 billion of palm oil from Malaysia in 2012.  This is expected to increase to over P54.0 billion in the next eight years unless there is a bold step to expand oil palm farming to benefit the Filipino farmers.  The importation of palm benefits the already rich Malaysian farmers.

 

 

  1. IV.              TREE CROPS PROVIDES HIGH JOB GENERATION AND INCOME

 

Unlike the Philippines which remain largely a rice, corn and coconut country during the last three decades neighboring countries converted their idle uplands as well as land grown to crops with low productivity to diversified high income commercial tree crops.  Among these crops are rubber and oil palm (Table 2).  In addition, Indonesia planted over a million ha of cacao; Vietnam planted almost a million ha of coffee.  Almost all vacant agricultural uplands in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam are now planted to these crops.  In the late 1980s, Malaysia made the bold decision that uplands grown to low income crops including large areas devoted to rainfed rice will be converted to high income oil palm under a World Bank loan.  The decision was recently cited as a landmark in agriculture as farmers were liberated from poverty by deriving income from oil palm more than enough to buy rice but with surplus for other expenses.  The Philippine have planted limited areas of rubber and oil palm of 165,000 and 72,000, respectively and of low productivity as this is not back up adequately by R & D.

 

Table 2.  Comparison of neighboring countries on areas planted to high income tree crops.

COUNTRY

AREA (‘000 HA) PLANTED

FULL-TIME JOB GENERATED (Person/Year)

RUBBER

OIL PALM

  1. Thailand

2,434

850

1,642,000

  1. Indonesia

3,414

1,000

6,707,000

  1. Malaysia

1,248

6,000

3,624,00

  1. Vietnam

850

-

425,000

  1. 5.      Philippines

165

72

118,500

 

But why rubber and oil palm?  For two main reasons – job and high income generation.  Both crops are unbeatable in rural job generation (Table 2).  Tree crop farming requires generally more than twice manpower than in rice, corn and coconut farming.  Every two hectares of these crops generate one whole-year-round quality farm job – twice that in rice and corn; three times that in coconut production which are largely seasonal.  Harvesting of the milky substance of rubber known as tapping is done every other day, one ha/day and one laborer to a ha the whole-year-round.  This mean a two-hectares rubber farm need a laborer everyday.  Oil palm fruits known as fresh fruit bunches are harvested every 10 to 15 days requiring two laborers/ha.

 

Secondly, using modern agricultural practices any of the two crops can provide a small landholder with 2.5 hectares high income more than twice the amount indicated by the NSCB in the poverty threshold level of P93,500/year.  The income of a typical oil palm or rubber farmer owing 2.5 ha is enough to allow him to buy nutritious food for his family, build a concrete house, buy a four wheel vehicle and send his children to college.  A hectare of any of these two crops when adequately attended provide a monthly income of not less than P6,000/month or P72,000/ha per year.  Well-managed farmers using updated technologies provide a net income of over P10,000/month or P120,000/year.  The high income from these crops transforms the farmers in neighboring countries from poverty to prosperity.  That’s why Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam beat the Philippines in overcoming poverty.  They have already met the target under the Millennium Development Goal on poverty reduction as prescribed by the United Nations to half poverty by 2015.  The Philippines which has a poverty level of from 33% in late 1990s has to reduce this to 16.60% in 2015; poverty today is still at 27.6% making reduction to 16.60% nearly an impossible dream.

 

  1. V.                 OVERCOMING THE DECREASING PRODUCIVITY OF THE COCONUT TREE

 

Coconut trees occupy 3.56 million hectares, about 1/4 of the more than 12 million hectares of agricultural crop lands of the Philippines.  It is the source of livelihood for over 20 million Filipinos in the upland.  Coconut was once the pride of the Philippines agriculture.  In the 1970 to 1980 a typical coconut farmer was a proud farmer with fairly good income.  During those years, the children of coconut farmers became scholars supported by the coconut levy fund pursuing degree courses with expenses not at his worry.  Not anymore – the income of a typical coconut farmer today with a farm of 2.5 ha is below P40,000/year less than half of what is prescribed in the poverty threshold level.  The national yield of coconut trees of 80 nuts/tree per year is among the world’s lowest – 2/3 of that of Indonesia, much below the irrigated coconut trees of India and those in the elevated beds of the swampy plains of Thailand producing over 200 nuts/ha per year.

 

Comprehensive and concerted technology transfer program in coconut farming is sadly lacking.  Consequently, the application of strategic science-based technologies and knowledge to produce high coconut yield is foreign to most coconut small landholders.  Traditional practices base on misconception of what is the coconut trees still exists.  These are the findings of this author while working as a consultant of a foreign aid donor to the victims of typhoon Pablo in a predominantly coconut province of Mindanao.

 

Inadequate fertilization and lack of program to use the high yielding hybrids are the major reasons keeping the coconut farms in low productivity.   As with any other agricultural crops, adequate fertilization ensures high and sustainable yield of the coconut trees over many years.   Scientific studies show that adequate fertilization of the coconut trees could increase the current yield to at least 2.5 times with the cost of fertilizer representing only 10 to 15% of the added benefits.  Most coconut farmers however don’t fertilizer.  They have the perceptions handed down from generation to generation that if they fertilize the trees and someday stop ferti

lizing the coconut trees will be offended (“magtampo”) and stop bearing fruits or become barren.   Lack of fertilization causes the draining through nut production of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, chlorine and calcium in the soil and is causing the decreasing yield of coconut over the years.

Research findings of the author as shown in Fig 1 leaves no doubts that when the neglected coconut tree is provided with TLC (tender loving care) – meaning, the hybrid tree is adequately fertilized, it response positively by providing the farmers with high yield and income.

 

The current norms for planting and replanting of coconut trees by most coconut farmers is with the use of traditional late maturing and low yielding coconut varieties.  Even the seed nuts distributed by the government to the Pablo typhoon victims where nine millions of coconut trees were uprooted is of this norm.  Agriculture is now at the modern era of using hybrids to shorten the period to maturity and dramatically increase the yield of crops four or more times over the traditional varieties. The use of hybrids pushes the corn and rice to high yield – almost at national sufficiency level.  It is now a common farmers’ practice to use seeds of hybrid rice, corn, oil palm, hybrid rubber, sugar cane to increase yield.  This is not so in coconut farming in the Philippines.

 

In 2011, the author accidentally discovered in one of his foreign study tours on ASEAN agriculture that the Philippine developed technology of hybrid coconut production virtually abandoned in the Philippines was pick-up by Malaysia.  The Malaysia government commissioned a private company to mass produce and distribute hybrid seed nuts to small farmers on plant-now-take-care (PNTC) shown in Figure 2.  This dramatically increases the coconut yield four times and the income of the farmers above the poverty threshold level.  The technology of hybrid coconut seed nut production use in Malaysia was developed in the Philippines through a World Bank loan, each and every taxpaying Filipino is now paying that loan benefiting the Malaysian farmers – not the pitiful Filipino coconut farmers.

 

Urgent and appropriate intervention is needed to change the existing recipes towards making the poor coconut farmers increasing become poorer with time so they will not contribute to the widening gap between the rich and the poor.  These component recipes are lack or adequate fertilization, absence of program for planting and replanting of old senile trees with early and high yielding varieties or hybrids plus the World Bank prediction of the decreasing price of coconut oil in the next decades.

 

Increasing yield through the use of hybrid and adequate fertilization still provide the greatest hope of the coconut farmers to cope up with the decreasing price of copra.  Even if the current price of copra is decreased by 20% but that the yield of coconut is increased three times, a coconut farmer will still have higher income.  Intercropping of crops like cacao, banana and other fruits can increase productivity and farmers’ income but not as much benefits as the planting of hybrid seed nuts and adequate fertilization.

 

 

  1. VI.              CAN PHILIPPINE AGRICULTURE BE GREAT AGAIN?

 

It is not whether it can but the urgent necessity that every Filipino should help and support President Benigno B. Aquino III to direct the utilization of the resources of the state in restoring Philippines agriculture to its past glory for two major reasons, namely: (1) agriculture provides the greatest hope of the country to fastract the solution of solving the two major problems of high incidence of unemployment and poverty,  (2) provide the flatform for an emerging middle class among farmers to help sustain or accelerate the growth of other industries – manufacturing, industry and service and in ensuring the overall economic growth of the country which benefits almost all Filipinos.

 

Some recommendations which President Aquino should implement and leave as a legacy of bringing the Philippine agriculture towards regaining its pass glory in order to help overcome poverty and unemployment are as follows:

  1. Provide matching resources to meet the challenges and opportunities of the coconut industry.  These include massive production of hybrid seed nuts to support replanting of old senile tree and implement a comprehensive technology transfer program particularly on plant nutrition for high sustainable productivity and yield.  The unfrozen levy fund or part of it should be utilized for this purpose.  Part of the levy fund should be used to provide scholarship to children of poor and deserving coconut farmers with the aim in view of building manpower who could provide leadership in building prosperous coconut farmers.  Suspended collection of the coconut levy should now be restored to ensure future adequate funds for modernizing the coconut R & D manpower and facilities.  Proper use of levy fund is what made rubber and oil palm world-class competitive commodities in Malaysia and Indonesia.  The Philippine should learn from these countries the proper use of levy fund of coconut not as a “milking cow” of politicians.
  2. Implement a comprehensive, integrated and holistic agricultural development program and to include large-scale commercial tree crop farming utilizing the more than one million ha of grass and brushlands of the country for oil palm, coffee and rubber  production.  Moreover, uplands grown to low productivity and income crops should be converted to high income crops.  In line with this activity the full implementation of RA 10089 or  the Philippine Rubber Research Institute and the passage of the Bill creating the Philippine Palm Oil Research Institute each to start with an amount appropriation of not less than P500 million/year.  Provide considerable fund to help small landholders access planting materials of hybrid oil palm and hybrid rubber trees and provide adequate technology generation and dissemination support.
  3. Increase considerable the government allocation for R & D in agriculture commensurate to the challenges and opportunity of the time – four times or more of the current allocations.  Funds adequately the massive development of high caliber S & T and managerial manpower in commercial tree crops farming particularly in oil palm and rubber. UPLB, USM and some selected universities in the country should be equipped with adequate and best manpower and adequate R & D funding resources matching what neighboring countries are providing their agricultural research centers and universities.

 

 

  1. VII.           SUGGESTIONS TO BUSINESS LEADERS

Some successful business leaders expressed desire to help solve the current problems of the country – high incidence of poverty and unemployment.  Their assistance to liberate a landed but poor farmer or an IPs (indigenous peoples) can make big differences.  It is not a difficult and expensive assistance.  Just provide a farmer with quality hybrid planting materials of rubber or oil palm and small amount for land preparation and planting all to cost not more than P50,000/ha and at one time, in a year of planting.  Provide him the resources to integrate food crops – cassava, vegetables, rice and corn while waiting for the tree crop to mature in three to five years.  In five years the income from the 2.5 ha farm is expected to be above the poverty threshold level.  Such has been proven in adjacent countries.  It is being done with astonishing by many LGUs on limited scale due to limited fund in the provinces of Cotabato, Maguindanao, Bukdnon and Sultan Kudarat.  Properly cared rubber and oil palm of 2.5 or more ha are capable of providing higher income for a farmer to buy enough food for his family, buy manufactures goods – TV, refrigerators, cars, built a concrete house and support his children to college.  A businessman can start with few farmers others with great philanthropic hearts can start with hundreds if not thousands of farmers, thus contributing to a strong Philippine economy.

GREETINGS:

We are happy to inform you that the 8th NATIONAL PALM OIL CONGRESS will be held on April 18-19, 2013, at Xavier Sports and Country Club, Xavier Estates, Masterson Ave., Cagayan De Oro City. This is organized by the PPDCI, and co-sponsored by the Local Government of Cagayan de Oro, ABERDI, API Group of Companies, KIDI, FPPI, LBP, DA and other Major Industry Players and Stakeholders, with the support of DTI, RBOI, DTI-ARMM, PCA–PODO, DOT, DLR, DENR and other National  and Local Government Units.

Updates on the Philippine palm oil industry, development initiatives, technological advances, banking support, local and international trends and prospects among others will be discussed during the congress.

As Stakeholders and Friends in the palm oil industry, may we invite you to join and participate to this important occasion. A registration fee will be collected to cover two (2) meals, three (3) snacks, souvenir program, congress kit and handouts. Early bird Registration is until March 18, 2013.

 

            Member:

                        Early Bird: Php 1,200.00

On-Site :   Php 1,500.00

 

            Non-Member:

                        Early Bird: Php 1,500.00

On-Site:    Php 1,800.00

 

We look forward to your favorable support to this undertaking. For details, please email us at ppdci@yahoo.com.ph or contact the Secretariat:  Ms. Branette Dayag at telefax +63642006542 or CP +639295145421, Ms Mary Shiela C. Mercurio at landline number +63888588580, or +639173118230.

 

ROBERTINO E. PIZARRO

President – PPDCI

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