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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Contract Farming in the Philippines

From the Ibon newsletter:

The recent typhoons highlighted land and crop use conversion as a factor in worsening the effects of disasters on food production and the need to ensure adequate land for food production. However amid all these, government has reserved more agricultural land for export crops and use of foreign agro-corporations.

More than 1.5 million hectares of land have been developed for agribusiness since 2005,
according to the Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corporation, most of which are for planting high value commercial crops to be exported to other countries.
Government has also approved 3 million hectares for foreign agro-corporations, which includes 60,000 hectares to Pacific Bio-Fields Corp. of Japan.

More worrying is the recent announcement of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that over 20 agribusiness firms will meet with nearly 200 Philippine companies to form partnerships and joint ventures in fisheries, biofuels, processed goods, meat and poultry, dairy products, etc. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) also granted 375,091 hectares of land to be used exclusively for jatropha production, and opened 30 more hectares for public auction.

According to IBON, data from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) of approved converted land area of 46,000 recorded over the span of 27 years is too small and does not include yet the areas lost to massive land grabbing, illegal conversions, and land speculation for industrial, financial and agribusiness ventures in the country.

While the disaster will likely affect food production, IBON said that this would have been mitigated if agricultural lands were maintained and harnessed for food production. The impact of land use and crop conversion on the production of staple crops has been evident in the last decades. Since the 1990s, farm area planted to palay fell by more than 87,000 hectares while that of corn was reduced by almost 300,000 hectares. Such decrease in the farm area spelled the massive displacement of Filipino farmers.

With the worsening economic crisis and as the country becomes more vulnerable to disasters, government should address the threat of food insecurity by ensuring that the country has sufficient land for food production, as well as adequate support for producers, to meet the food needs of Filipinos—rather than allowing the large-scale conversion of agricultural lands.

Farming in the Philippines is a conducive enterprise. This is most especially in the valleys of Davao where rain fall is year long and mild. In the north, certain crops are favorable to cultivate: peanuts, tobacco, mongo, and others that do not require much rain. Some portions that are irrigated could harvest rice twice, or 3 times annually if lucky enough. Typhoons make the north a risky business when it comes to crops.

Throughout the years, however, several threats to farming have emerged:
  • depletion of the soil's natural nutrients due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides
  • land-grabbing (incidentally, my father was accused as such, went under investigation, and luckily came out clean... and no, we are not moneyed nor strategically connected in Philippine politics --- his maternal side of clan does not believe him, though). BTW, landgrabbing dates back to Spanish period when Europe's (Spain) sent out their representatives to own whatever land they could title... so until today, so much like Native Americans, Native Filipinos lord it over to the Ayalas, Ortigases, the mestizo Chinese Cojuangcos, Florentinos (in the north) and other sophisticated-sounding names who are also landlords and kingmakers if not kings in their own 'doms (governors, congressmen, mayors, oligarchs, and trapos)
  • derailing of noble-purposed agriculture projects into pockets of trapos (from barangay officials up to the first gents and mesdames)... example: organic farming
  • then, there's the above.
To describe it in a first-hand basis (yes, I came from a farming family), those contractual farming methods run like this based on Uncle Chavit's tomato plant in Santa, Ilocos Sur:
  • contractors (tomato plant representatives) approach a small-scale farmer (with a few hundred square meter land area) or the other way around for tomato planting
  • the contractor provides the seeds for planting and provides an "advance money" for the farmer to cover labor, and other incidental expenses - diesel for water, transport, etc. The contractor will also provide for fertilizer and pesticides which costs will be added to the total cost of deductions payable to farmer in contract.
  • Upon harvest, the farmer will sell a kilo of tomatoes for P3 or US$.06 cents to the contractor if he is lucky. Most of the time, the farmer will end up owing the contractor because the price may also get lower as insisted by the contractor because many accepted contract growing and there is overproduction of tomatoes. Instead of earning, he loses money and that he will need to accept another contract to pay his debts off.
This is crazy, you'd say. This is contract-farming, otherwise noted by Ibon as "partnerships and joint ventures" above. This is reality 101 in Philippine farming. Thank you for reading.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hello BDO: A Short Story based on Facts

A few months back, like, May 18, my wallet was snatched
(the customer service representative from SM Hypermart The Block corrected me: "Na-snatch-an po kayo? Baka na-pick-pocket?" And I acquiesced, retorting coyly, "Ay, oo nga pala..." out of short-circuit, biglang bumagal ang memory ko... my original byte coud have produced this retort: E miss, di naman sa bulsa dinukot, at dinaan lang sa bilis ng kamay..." I hate it!
and with it are IDs and a BDO-issued credit card. I reported it immediately, inside the store.
The next or a couple of days later, a CSR called me up requesting me to fax billing address evidence. I did immediately as asked. Every 2 weeks after, I called the BDO hotline 6318000 to follow-up and until the second week of August, I was informed it (the card!) was already ready for release.Two or 3 weeks later, I received a billing statement for the credit card which has not arrived! I immediately called to learn the card was not informed that it should have been released and should have started walking to its intended master. All hell and its neighboring holes broke loose.

A couple of days later, I received the card.

It has sit idle on my phone table a few weeks now, I was waiting for it to make up its mind and learn I was not gonna smooth my fingers on it to turn it into a genie... I am waiting for the cancellation of service fees charged on me days before I even met the card I was being charged with. And the notification I requested that I already canceled my order for a replacement.

I hate BDO, especially the one in West Avenue cor Del Monte. It has monster clerks. Especially the fat bully who terrorizes not only clients or customers but the senior officers in there, I kept wondering what's keeping her on her job. She's Ursula from The Little mermaid... I had a series of nightmarish experiences in there, with Ursula.

And then, there's the "pick-pocket" experience at The Block, and this credit card experience... Everyday, Customer Service to me takes mutilated meanings and forms that make each encounter a release of evil thoughts... Hmmm, they (CSRs) are useful, afterall.