The Philippines Seed Industry News 2020

This page features a compilation and selection of Filipino seed industry news briefs, summaries and leads, with an emphasis on events that impact or affect provinces, regions, counties, cities and locales in the Republic of the Philippines (Republika ng Pilipinas).

The news covers trends and events regarding seed regulation, testing, legislation, phytosanitary issues, intellectual property rights, biotechnology (genomics, gene-editing) plant breeding, agronomy and cropping, with original sources linked.

This page will be updated throughout the year, with most recent briefs listed first.

May 2020

Quezon City distributes free veg seeds for ‘Joy of Urban Farming’ program

The Quezon city government in cooperation with the  Department of Agriculture (DA) will distribute vegetable seeds to residents as part of a  ‘Joy of Urban Farming program’ . The free seeds will be included in about 6,000 starter kits, which include a variety of vegetables such as eggplant, okra, tomato, pechay, mustard, ampaya and spinach, in addition to  organic fertilizer, potting bags, and a starter manual with growing guidelines, reports Phil Star. In related news, the Quezon City program is being embraced as an “urban agri revolution” by some 2,000 participating members of the Police Security and Protection Group (PSPG) Advisory Council, according to this news in Tagalog.

Veg, rice production bolstered in Maguindanao 

The Governor of the province of Maguindanao is urging Local Government Units to encourage farmers to grow more vegetables. The news, reported by RMN Philippines, comes amidst “uncertainty as to whether normalcy will be restored due to the crisis caused by the Covid-19 Pandemic.” Accordingly, vegetable seedlings have been prepared and distributed, while there is also a push to bolster rice production this coming season. 

Drought-afflicted corn farmers in Isabela to get duck reinforcement 

Some 40 farmers in Iligan City, of Isabela province will be given ducks to raise as part of crisis mitigation efforts led by the Dept of Agriculture. According to an article by Journal Online Philippines, the farmers’ crop had been greatly affected by a drought, and not to mention, ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. The article goes on to note that despite the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), which has restricted movement and thus restrained economic activities in Luzon, the Cagayan Valley — which includes several provinces in northeast Luzon — is still 384% sufficient in rice and 86% sufficient in white corn.

April 2020

PSIA advocates for unhindered seed movements, avoiding food shortages

The Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA) in April has advocated for cooperation from Local Government Units (LGUs) to ensure the unhindered transport of agriculture commodities in response to reports of difficulties in transporting agricultural goods domestically. Specifically, agriculture supplies, cargo and personnel had reportedly been blocked by some Local Government Units (LGU) at checkpoints in Ilocos Norte and parts of the Davao region, reported by Business World. As also covered by Business InquirerBusiness World and the Malaya Business Insight, PSIA president Mary Ann Sayoc has warned of food shortages should the movement of seeds and farm inputs and personnel continue to be hindered, noting that some of the association’s member-companies had also reported difficulties in transporting agriculture commodities and in moving necessary farm manpower domestically, despite the government declaring that food, seeds and farm inputs were exempted from movement restrictions. “To ensure that food production will continue, all seed production, processing and distribution activities should be exempted from any ban,” she said. Also covering the story, the Manila Standard quoted Agriculture Secretary, William Dar in a statement saying that the “unhampered movement of food supplies should be one priority in this war against COVID-19, else, all our efforts will be in vain if we have nothing to feed our people.” Mary Ann was also interviewed by ANC/24 on this topic here

In related news, the PSIA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Agriculture and four cities in Metro Manila for the implementation and promotion of urban agriculture programs in which PSIA will set up community vegetable gardens and conduct hands-on training for residents. 

Farmers in Luzon struggling from lockdown

Al Jazeera video news reports on some of the dire challenges farmers and other residents are facing in Luzon, particularly in the landlocked province of Neava Ecija, which include the closure of warehouses, reduced access to markets, rotting produce and mounting debts. Video report here

Bulacan farmers find buyers of produce on Facebook marketplace

Rappler reports on the trend of farmers reaching customers via online channels amidst covid-19 movement restrictions. According to report, a farmers group based in Bulacan had sold nearly 4 tons of vegetables to online customers, who were mostly based in Quezon City. The online farmers market was launched on Facebook on March 21. The farmers bring their crops to pick up points in Quezon City once a week; seasonal vegetables and fruits on sale include eggplant, string beans, bittergourd, sweet potato, cassava, banana heart, snow cabbage, and saba or sweet plantain among others. More details and link to market page here

Palay, maize production trend estimates in Q1

Output of palay, or unhusked rice, and maize is expected to have declined in the first quarter of 2020, compared to the same period last year, according to preliminary estimates from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). In a report published to their website (download here) palay production in Q1 is expected to have fallen to 4.25 million tonnes, from 4.42 million tonnes in Q1, 2019; and maize to 2.4 million tonnes from 2.43 million tonnes in Q1, last year. Planting for the two staple crops at the time of the report had only been realized on about 65% of farmers’ intensions. 

Banana exports expected to plunge by 40%

Exports of bananas from the Philippines — the largest exporter in Asia, and second largest exporter in the world behind only Equador — are anticipated to drop by 40% this year down to 2.5 million tonnes, from 4 million tonnes last year. Citing projections from the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, an article from Bloomberg notes the drop is due to “lockdowns and social distancing measures” which “curb output and transport”

March 2020

Farmers, agri-food workers exempt from quarantine in Manila, Luzon

To ensure the continued flow of food and essential farm goods during the”enhanced community quarantine,”lockdown declared for Manila and all of Luzon since mid March, the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for COVID-19 on Mar 24 released Resolution 15. The resolution, which mandates stringent measures to fight COVID-19 pandemic, effectively approves seven recommendations from the Department of Agriculture, subject to implementation of a “skeletal workforce and social distancing measures”. The approved recommendations are: 

  1. Allow all farming and fishing activities to continue;
  2. Exempt all healthy farmers and farm workers, fishers, and agri-business personnel;
  3. Allow agricultural supply stores /outlets and veterinary clinics to operate
  4. Reiterate unhampered movement of all supplies used for agriculture, including food packaging and manufacturing materials
  5. Reactivation of the Local Price Coordination Council (LPCC) to strengthen the price monitoring and enforcement (MC77)
  6. Upscaling KADIWA ni Ani at Kita in support for food availability, accessibility and price stability; and
  7. Support the DA program – Ahon Lahhat, Pagkain, Sapat (ALPAS kontra COVID-19

 

‘Food Lanes’ to facilitate movement during quarantine

To facilitate the flow of agri-goods to major demand  centers throughout a Manila and Luzon — currently under lockdown through to April — the DA has initiated a “Food Lane” service, which accredits truck owners transporting perishable agri-fishery products throughout quarantined areas, where checkpoints have been set up throughout. The accreditation process involves an application, now possible to be done online, orientation, inspection of documents and vehicle, and paying fee. Click here for more documents, manuals on the service .  

 

Funds to boost agricultural resilience, productivity

 

The Department of Agriculture announced plans to secure P32 billion as a supplemental fund to expedite the implementation of food security measures. Under the working program title “Ahon Lahat, Pagkain Sapat Kontra sa COVID-19” or ALPAS COVID-19, the measures will be in addition to the department’s existing programs to support and enhance agr food self-sufficiency.  The supplemental budget will be used to immediately mobilize support to farmers and other players in the food value chain. The program focuses on the cultivation of rice, corn, vegetables, fruits and fisheries, and covers the procurement and supplementation of key inputs, including seeds, fertilizers, machinery, and irrigation means. Click here for budget breakdown specifics. 

Philippines DA assures enough food for 9 months 

The Department of Agriculture) has assured those in quarantined areas that there will be enough food to go around for several months; the food will continue to be available at public markets and through outlets of the DA-initiated “KADIWA ni Ani at Kita” program, according to the DA.  “We call on the general public to buy only their daily or weekly food requirements and refrain from overstocking or panic buying,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar. “We at the Department of Agriculture will ensure the sufficient and continuous supply of basic necessities and perishable commodities, and make these available in public markets, and Kadiwa stores for the benefit of all family households, particularly in depressed communities. For our basic staple, rice, the current inventory at various NFA warehouses nationwide is good for at least 80 days, and it will be further augmented by the incoming palay harvest this current dry season, providing additional stocks for another two to three months. Together with the rice stocks held by the private sector and households, we will have a 35-week rice supply, which means this is good for at least nine months.  Other than rice, other basic food items include pork, chicken, eggs, other poultry products, fish, vegetables, fruits, sugar, cooking oil, and other coconut by-products.

Urban gardening to boost domestic food supply

The Agriculture Secretary William Dar has instructed the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI) to improve collaboration with local government units (LGU) for promoting urban agriculture, “especially in schools, barangays, government offices and even corporate buildings with rooftops… so that when there is tightening of food supply from the provinces, there will be enough in urban areas as well,” reports the Business Inquirer

 

FEBRUARY 2020

PSIA Hosts Study Tour to Chinese Taipei


The Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA) recently hosted a Study Tour to Chinese Taipei (Taiwan, China) for its member companies. The study tour aimed to familiarize the participants with the island’s agriculture industry and learn best practices, since Chinese Taipei and the Philippines share similar agro-ecological conditions.

Chinese Taipei’s seed and agriculture industries are among the most advanced in the world. The tour is in line with PSIA’s goal to build the capacity of its members and establish linkages with seed industry associations in our neighboring countries, said Dr. Mary Ann Sayoc, President of PSIA and East-West Seed’s Group Lead for Public Affairs.

The study tour, which ran from November 10 to 15, 2019, included visits to government and private seed research stations, and meetings with seed and farmer associations in three cities: Kaohsiung, Taichung, and Taipei. PSIA hosted 30 delegates from 13 member companies during the tour.

“We hope our delegates will learn technologies and best practices that can be adopted in the Philippines. This is also a good opportunity to strengthen the camaraderie and cooperation among our members,” added Dr. Sayoc.

Among the sites visited by the delegates are the Fengshan Tropical Experiment Station, Known-You Seed Headquarters and Research Farm, National Chung Hsing University, Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute, and the Taiwan Seed Improvement and Propagation Station, where the delegates learned about various seed technologies and innovations.

One of the possible areas of cooperation identified with Taiwan Seed Improvement and Propagation Station is the training program on seed technology for PSIA members.

The delegates also learned about partnerships in the seed industry in their meetings with the Taiwan Seed Industry Association and Taichung Young Farmers’ Association.

The delegation also had the chance to enjoy the Sea of Flowers Festival in Xinshe, Taichung, where they saw several hectares of land filled with over 250,000 varieties of plants such as cosmos, marigold, petunia, and zinnia. The annual festival is the fruit of the collaboration among the Taiwan Seed Improvement and Propagation Station of Council of Agriculture, Taichung City Government, and local farmers’ cooperatives.

During the tour, the delegates also learned about the local rich culture by trying out different variations of Taiwanese cuisine and by visiting popular tourist sites such as Taipei 101, Jiufen Old Street, and night markets in Liuhe and Keelung.

Delegates came from the following member companies of PSIA: Pioneer/Corteva, Known-You, Harbest Agribusiness, Keystone, Haverson Enterprises, Allied Botanical Corporation, Institute of Plant Breeding – University of the Philippines Los Banos, Jadeco Trading, East-West Seed, AJI Trading, Pilipinas Kaneko, Ramgo International Corp, Seedworks Phil. Inc., SL Agritech, Monsanto Philippines, Greenworld, Right Agri.

More brief updates from PSIA

PSIA recently held a two-day strategic planning workshop to craft the strategy for the coming five years. Moreover, the revised Seed Act, which PSIA has been consulted on, has been submitted in the lower house for deliberation. Moreover, guidelines for regulation of gene-edited products are being reviewed by the National Council for Biotechnology, Department of Science and Technology. 

DECEMBER 2019 & JANUARY 2020

Golden Rice gets green light for food, feed & processing

The Philippines has now  joined a handful of countries in giving a green light for directly utilizing Golden Rice, a genetically-engineered variety of the staple grain which contains beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A. Following a biosafety assessment process that began in 2017 and culminated with successful field trials in Muñoz, Nueva Ecija and San Mateo, Isabela in September and October 2019, the Philippine Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry in December stated that golden rice  “has been found to be as safe as conventional rice” . The resulting biosafety permit, addressed to the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) essentially paves the way for golden rice to be directly used as food and feed, or for processing (FFP), and thus address a looming Vitamin A deficiency in the Southeast Asian country. Commercial propagation of golden rice is still pending final approval. 

Seed Technology Park plans revealed at National Seed Summit

Addressing the inauguration of the 2019 National Seed Summit and Exhibits at the Agricultural Institute (ATI) in Diliman, Quezon City on December 2, 2019, the Philippines Agriculture Secretary William Dar revealed tentative plans for the Department of Agriculture (DA) to support the development of a National Seed Technology Park. The park, which is  inspired by the Andhra Pradesh State Mega Seed Park in India, would be developed on a 50-hectare-plot of land at an undisclosed location, and would be developed in cooperation with the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), National Seed Industry Council (NSIC), and the Philippine Seed Industry Association, Inc. In his keynote address, Dr. Dar stressed that access to high-quality and certified seeds is essential to increasing agricultural productivity. This year’s summit was themed, “Binhing de Kalidad at Sagana, Para sa Mataas na Ani at Kita,” which roughly translates to “Quality seeds and abundance for bountiful harvest and returns (profit)”  Attending the National Seed Summit was APSA Executive Director Dr. Kanokwan who presented on international phytosanitary and quality assurance trends, including the Global Systems Approach.

Millions in agriculture damage from Taal Volcano eruption

According to an initial damage assessment report by the Philippines Department of Agriculture (DA) on January 14, the eruption of the Taal Volcano had caused no less than 577.59 million Pesos in agricultural damage (US$11.33 million). The volcano, located on Luzon island in the province of Batangas, which began spewing ash many miles into the air starting on January 12.  However, the final damage assessment may very well turn out to be a lot higher, as the volcano was still erupting many days after the assessment was made. According to the DA report, crops initially damaged by falling ash spanned an area of some  2,772 hectares, while an estimated 1,967 animal heads were also affected. Affected commodities included rice, corn, coffee, cacao, banana, as well as high-value crops. In the wake of the natural disaster, officials had been providing relief for farmers and residents in various forms. The Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI), for example, had reportedly distributed 5,000 coffee mother plants and 1,000 cacao seedlings are ready for distribution for damaged coffee and cacao areas. Video reports show how horticulture crops were damaged by the ash.

Dept of Agriculture targets millennials for agri-business trade

The Manila Bulletin reports on three programs the Philippines government is implementing to entice young agri-entrepreneurs to get into or expand in the agri-business industry. These include grants of up to 500,000 pesos ($9,789) per start-up, as well as zero-interest  loans of up to 500,000 pesos for start-ups, and even more for those already involved in micro and small entrepreneurship farming, According to DA Secretary William Dar, primary criteria includes good ideas, a business plan and passion.