After rice, veggies target of self-sufficiency by gov’tBy DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Filipinos may be picky eaters of greens, but by 2016, they should have their fill of sitaw (string beans) and kalabasa (squash) and other vegetables grown around the classic song “Bahay Kubo.”
“After rice, our next focus is to achieve self-sufficiency in vegetables,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said at the recent 10th National Vegetable Congress in Butuan City.
In a statement, Alcala said the Department of Agriculture (DA) through its High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) is aiming to increase domestic self-sufficiency in vegetables from 65 percent to 100 percent and beyond within four years.
Food security is a priority of the Aquino administration, with rice self-sufficiency topping the agenda. In his third State of the Nation Address on July 23, the President underlined his administration’s goal of making the Philippines a rice exporter.
Once this is done, Alcala said, the attention will focus on vegetables and fish.
Through its Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (Amas) and HVCDP, the DA has been working to match and directly link farmers’ groups with wholesale market traders and institutional buyers, Alcala said.
The aim is to provide a comfortable profit to producers and sellers as well as a regular supply of reasonably priced, safe and good quality vegetables to consumers, he said.
For example, agriculture officials have been meeting with major vegetable traders from the Divisoria wholesale market in Metro Manila to determine their vegetable supply and demand requirements, Alcala said.
The information will then be relayed to farmers’ cooperatives and groups, allowing them to schedule their production, harvest and delivery operations, he said.
But Filipinos, traditional meat-eaters, are not eating the required daily vegetable serving size requirements.
The country’s vegetable per capita consumption is estimated at 40 kilos, equivalent to an annual requirement of 3.8 million metric tons of vegetables for roughly 95 million Filipinos, Alcala said.
“Such a consumption level is just one-fourth of the recommended dietary requirement of 146 kilos per year, according to the World Health Organization,” he said.
At the vegetable congress, Alcala urged the participants to forge marketing agreements with institutional buyers and consumers, and thereafter plan their respective production and harvest schedules for each commodity.
Alternative farming areas
“This should be done to obtain reasonable profits and more importantly, avoid an oversupply and sudden drop in prices,” he said.
The DA is also identifying alternative areas that are less vulnerable to flooding and drought and able to produce vegetables year round or when it is off season in traditional farming areas like Benguet, Nueva Ecija and Bulacan, he said.
This year, the DA through the HVCDP has allotted P643 million, or about half of the program’s P1.3-billion budget, to undertake several initiatives to sustain and prop up the country’s vegetable industry. A similar budget is proposed next year.