Agriculture - - Update Needed -

TO GET MORE FARM­ERS to con­vert to or­ganic agri­cul­ture, Uni­ver­sity of the Philip­pines Los Baños (UPLB) ex­perts be­lieve that there is a need to up­date the Philip­pine Na­tional Stan­dards for Or­ganic Prod­ucts of 2003. This set of poli­cies was drawn up seven years be­fore the Or­ganic Agri­cul­ture Act or Repub­lic Act 10068 was passed into law in 2010.

UPLB ex­perts opine that given this length of time, a suf­fi­cient num­ber of re­search stud­ies and lessons in the field at the lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional lev­els can be con­sol­i­dated and syn­the­sized to guide all its stake­hold­ers.

This is just one of the pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions that the Col­lege of Pub­lic Af­fairs and De­vel­op­ment (CPAf) for­warded as an out­put of a study that it con­ducted, en­ti­tled “Pol­icy Sup­port to Or­ganic Agri­cul­ture: Rice and Veg­etable In­dus­try in Se­lected Ar­eas in the Philip­pines.” The re­search team was headed by this au­thor, and the re­sults of the study have been pub­lished in the book “Pol­icy Sup­port to Or­ganic Agri­cul­ture in the Philip­pines.”

The re­search study was aimed at re­ex­am­in­ing or­ganic agri­cul­ture through a study of the pro­duc­tion, mar­ket, and reg­u­la­tory challenges in the sec­tor, specif­i­cally in rice and veg­eta­bles, and to come up with rec­om­men­da­tions for the Na­tional Or­ganic Agri­cul­ture Board (NOAB) to con­sider.

The study found that the high cost of la­bel­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion kept both rice and veg­etable farm­ers from con­vert­ing to or­ganic farm­ing. “Small-scale farm­ers do not have the fi­nan­cial ca­pac­ity to cer­tify their pro­duce; hence, there is a need for al­ter­na­tive meth­ods of cer­ti­fi­ca­tion,” the CPAf re­search team said. The cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process must be sim­pli­fied, an al­ter­na­tive cer­ti­fi­ca­tion process ex­plored, or glob­ally rec­og­nized lo­cal cer­ti­fi­ca­tion bod­ies be ac­cred­ited to con­duct it.

They also rec­om­mended the en­hance­ment of the role of farm­ers’ or­ga­ni­za­tions and co­op­er­a­tives, which the study found to be ef­fec­tive con­duits in pro­mot­ing or­ganic agri­cul­ture, and in la­bel­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Ad­di­tional sup­port was also rec­om­mended to be given to rel­e­vant gov­ern­ment or­ga­ni­za­tions, state uni­ver­si­ties and col­leges, non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs), and lo­cal gov­ern­ment units (LGUs) to help pro­vide in­puts, and for ca­pac­ity build­ing of co­op­er­a­tives to serve as con­duits of ser­vices in or­ganic farm­ing.

The re­searchers also rec­om­mended the har­mo­niza­tion of ad­min­is­tra­tive or­ders and mem­o­ran­dum cir­cu­lars in or­der to com­ple­ment information, ed­u­ca­tion, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion (IEC) ini­tia­tives and poli­cies on la­bel­ing and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion.

One of the ar­eas that the re­searchers said needed to be im­proved is the mar­ket­ing sys­tem for or­gan­i­cally grown farm prod­ucts through the es­tab­lish­ment of trad­ing posts in strate­gic mar­ket de­mand cen­ters. Ap­pro­pri­ate pack­ag­ing and la­bel­ing should also be pur­sued as con­sumers now read prod­uct la­bels look­ing for dates of pro­duc­tion and ex­piry, and a phrase in­di­cat­ing that the prod­uct is or­gan­i­cally pro­duced.

In­deed, there are a thou­sand and one rea­sons for farm­ers to prac­tice or­ganic farm­ing, and for Fil­lipinos to con­sume or­gan­i­cally grown food. Fore­most among them is be­cause or­ganic farm­ing helps pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment from fur­ther dam­age caused by un­sus­tain­able farm­ing prac­tices. It also pro­tects Filipinos from con­sum­ing food that has traces of toxic chem­i­cals, hor­mones, and an­tibi­otics that can dam­age health.

In both rea­sons res­onate the im­por­tance of or­ganic farm­ing or or­ganic agri­cul­ture as an al­ter­na­tive means of pro­duc­ing food that con­sid­ers food safety and se­cu­rity as the para­mount ob­jec­tives. In both rea­sons res­onate the need to re­visit ex­ist­ing poli­cies to en­sure that th­ese fa­cil­i­tate con­ver­sion of more stake­hold­ers to or­ganic agri­cul­ture.

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