Inclusive Agriculture Growth

PHOTO CAPTION: Forum on Agribusiness and Inclusive Growth. With Cito Alejandro of Del Monte, Glen Baticados of UPLB and Ramon Lopez of Go Negosyo. Pushing for greater R&D inputs towards a more innovative and high value-adding agri entrepreneurship. To use R&D as our competitive edge, for higher agri productivity, lower cost, better quality, more benefits as source of differentiation in product development. Pushing also for agritechnology commercialization to benefit scientists and farmers, and developing business models that will link farm producers to big companies for a sustainable demand and income for producers.

Much hope is pinned on agricultural development.  It is the sector that provides the basic production of the food we eat. The sector accounts for more than 60% of our employment, if we include the suppliers and processors.  It therefore becomes a bit worrisome for many of us when we hear of stories where the children of farmers or fishermen do not want to be like their parents who till the land and grow the fishes and livestocks due to poor income potential.

Majority of them are also in the countryside, such that any development or underdevelopment has bearing on how well we are bringing prosperity to a wider base across the country.

Unfortunately, agriculture sector in our GDP still accounts for only 10% of the economy, and in the first quarter of this year grew only 1.6%, which is lower than population growth rate of over 2%.  The other sectors like manufacturing and services are growing more rapidly at over 5%.

We know that government for many years and decades have been supporting this sector, and efforts have been accelerated with more development oriented policies and programs, agri support, infrastructures and entrepreneurship being pushed by Sen. Cynthia Villar, Sen. Bam Aquino and Secretary Kiko Pangilinan.

It is also high time we encourage the change in mindset of farmers into becoming more entrepreneurial, or to think like entrepreneurs, to have a vision and to think big too.  By this we mean giving them more training, exposures and assistance to improve their productivity and yields, new plant breeds, seed technologies, process technology and even empowering them how they can value add on their produce by going into further processing.  In other countries, farmers are rich and are considered big entrepreneurs.

It was good to know that our country has a wealth of PhDs and scientists in the agriculture sector. We recently had the fortune of joining a discussion forum on Agribusiness and Inclusive growth.  It was held during the 40th Anniversary of the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) at UP Los Banos.  They are at the forefront of developing new breeds with higher yield, disease resistant and on biotechnology that will benefit many farmers.  The room was filled with over 200 scientists and PhDs. We truly have a wealth of intellectual resources and we simply have to facilitate further the application of their inventions and technologies to benefit the sector.

Former UP President Dr. Emil Javier led the gathering, while DTI Sec Greg Domingo gave the keynote message on the importance of intellectual property ownership, opportunities of agriculture in APEC and other trade agreements, and shared service facilities in mobilizing community-based entrepreneurship.

In the discussion panel, we joined Del Monte’s COO Cito Alejandro and UPLB Agri Center for Entrepreneurship and Angelpreneur Glenn Baticados and we discussed how we can really help the sector maximize its growth potential by applying many of these leading edge discoveries in agriculture in the production system.  This what we mean by also having the farmers find ways and means and search for this new discoveries to infuse it in their production system.  Agri technology and modernization is key in growing this sector.  How can we commercialize further these technologies, and have the scientists and famers benefit from this intellectual resources?

We can also help farmers by serving as users of their produce. This is where the concept of inclusive business can be replicated by many companies.  This refers to the sourcing of agriculture raw material inputs directly from farming communities so that the farmers would have ready markets.  Some companies have been doing this like Justin Uy’s Profoods dried mangoes and fruits, SL Agritech rice of Henry Lim Bon Liong, Tennyson Chen’s Bounty Fresh chickens, Senen Bacani’s La Frutera, Rosalind Wee’s W Hydrocolloids using local seaweeds, Jollibee, Dole, Del Monte just to name a few.  Even our Selecta Ice Cream has developed a farming community to supply its ube requirements.

Having contract farming arrangements not only provide a sustained market for farmers, but they pass on the needed mindset, technologies and training that will empower the farmers even on their future undertakings.

Instead of traders, what we need are more of social enterprise developers that will form and train farm groups or cooperatives to become the production partners of many consolidators and processors.  In this way, we allow a direct link between farmers and the bigger companies, leading to better pricing and income for farmers as we eliminate the middlemen.

These are just some negosyo models that must be encouraged and promoted.  In our recent Agri Negosyo Summit, we encouraged many groups to consider models.  We also published our Agri Negosyo book to showcase many successful agri-entrepreneurs and business models to show that there is money in agriculture.

We are planning to mount our next Agri Negosyo Summit in Nueva Ecija in September. It is also the hometown of one of our trustees and leading entrepreneur Alice Eduardo who committed to play an active role in making the Summit a success.

We hope we can help heighten the push towards greater agriculture productivity and incomes, more creativity and innovations that will benefit a wider sector, including the technology developers and scientists, and many farmers in the rural areas to have a more meaningful inclusive agricultural growth in our country.