The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) along with its private sector partner SyCip Gorres and Velayo & Company (SGV) successfully conducted the Inception Workshop for the Asian Development Bank (ADB) project "Analysis of Fruit and Vegetable Value Chains in the Philippines" on 11 September 2020 via Zoom. A total of 44 participants composed of Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) officials and staff and executives of private firms from the logistics and lending industry participated in the online workshop.
The draft Inception report of the project submitted to ADB on 10 August 2020 outlines the approach to the study as well as the detailed workplan for the implementation of the project. As part of the methodology, the inception workshop is an avenue to primarily consult DA and also the private sectors in the selection of three fruits/vegetables that will be the focus of the value chain analysis.
The project's main objectives are the following:
- Assess the post-harvest loss occurring in different segments of the value chains like harvesting, field-stacking, cleaning, packaging, storage, transportation and loading-unloading;
- Assess the profitability (of farmers) in production of fruits and vegetables;
- Identify and evaluate the role of middlemen and its impact on price and supply;
- Evaluate the availability and quality of cold storage facilities, transportation, packaging, etc.; and
- Identify and analyze the constraints in each segment of the value chain and suggest specific strategies and interventions to improve fruit and vegetable value chains in the country.
The program was moderated by Dr. Akmal Siddiq, Chief of Rural Development and Food Security (Agriculture) Thematic Group, ADB. The opening remarks were given by Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, SEARCA Director; Dr. Jiangfeng Zhang, Director, Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Division, Southeast Asia Department, ADB; and Usec. Evelyn Laviña, DA Undersecretary and National Coordinator for High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP), who represented DA Secretary William D. Dar.
Dr. Gregorio introduced the participants from DA, ADB, SGV, SEARCA and the private sectors. In his speech, he highlighted the reality of the adverse impacts of COVID-19 pandemic, especially to the Filipino farmers and fisherfolks, thus the importance of the project in developing strategic actions and interventions to the value chains of fruits and vegetables in the country.
In the same vein, Dr. Zhang emphasized that despite the current situation, consumer demand for safe and nutritious food has been rising, which calls for stricter enforcement of food safety laws, regulations, and standards in sanitation protocols. He also recalled what Secretary Dar mentioned to ADB about DA's food security development framework which has five strategic thrusts - farm consolidation, modernization, industrialization, export and promotion, and infrastructure development. He added that ADB has been working to help ensure food security in terms of availability, accessibility, affordability, and safety. In fact, on 12 August 2020, the ADB Board of Directors approved a USD 400 million fund loan to support agricultural opportunities in the Philippines focusing on three reform areas, namely: strengthening agricultural trade policy and regulatory framework, enhancing private service and finance for agriculture sector, and improving social protection for rural families.
The message of Sec. Dar, as read by Usec. Laviña, underscored that the new normal condition exaggerates the food security issues that has long been existing. She added that DA feels "lucky, challenged, and hopeful" to be as engaged as before in searching and finding solutions through this pandemic.
The opening remarks was immediately followed by an overview of postharvest losses in the Philippines by Engr. Roderic Vereña, Division Chief of Socio Economics and Policy Research Division (SEPRD) of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech). He introduced PhilMech as one of DA's attached agencies focusing on research and development mandated to extend, commercialize, and appropriate problem-oriented agriculture and fishery postharvest and mechanization technologies. He then shared the agency's previous studies on postharvest losses of various fruits and vegetables such as mango, banana, onion, cabbage and tomato, from various locations in the Philippines. They conducted the study during the peak months and lean months of these crops and through the view of different actors from farmers to retailers.
Dr. Marlo Rankin, International Expert of the ADB VCA project, discussed the background of the project, its objectives, approach, and methodology. Dr. Flordeliza Lantican, National Expert of the ADB VCA project, said the pre-selected commodities were based on the review of regional plans and priorities of DA in optimizing the health of agriculture and fisheries
Usec. Laviña discussed that HVCDP is one of priority programs of DA as it helps to address food security, poverty alleviation, and sustainable growth for a resilient Philippines and prosperous farmers and fisherfolks. The program aims to increase income and opportunity, develop interventions, and promote access local and international markets. The HVCDP priority programs and projects include:
- Crop Diversification Program – focuses on supporting various approaches such as integrated farming system, enterprise development, and household food production;
- Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation Program (F2C2) – efficient farm mechanization, economies of scale, and market-driven production;
- Revitalized Gulayan Projects - to ensure food supply;
- Expansion of Production Areas – focuses on high-value crops, seed system, and establishment of mother gardens;
- Productivity Enhancement – dissemination of technology; and
- Postharvest/Value Adding/Product Development.
On behalf of Usec. Ampatuan, Ms. Nihaya Ariraya, Technical Executive Assistant for the Office of Undersecretary for Regulations, presented an overview of the DA Food Logistics Framework and Infrastructure Plan. She underscored that time and distance is constantly an issue in logistics and causes spoilage, thereby reducing produce in the market and leading to market loss. She added that the Usec. Ampatuan always emphasizes the need to train smallholder farmers in order to reduce harvest losses and damage in harvesting, which also include handling and storage of produce. She also stressed that their Office is very keen in selecting logistics partners where it has to be an expert in that specific commodity.
The SEARCA project team led by Dr. Lantican and Dr. Rankin continued the discussion on pre-selected commodities for the study and the value chain selection matrix, respectively.
Dr. Lantican discussed the data on National Production of Pre-Selected Fruits and Vegetables for Evaluation. In an attempt to narrow down the range of commodities for evaluation, seven preliminary commodity chains (three fruits and four vegetables) have been selected for preliminary evaluation based on stakeholder consultations and the Regional priority and high-value fruits and vegetables chains identified in the DA Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan 2018-2023 and Optimizing the Wealth of Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries (2019). For the fruit value chains, banana, mango, and pineapple have been selected for preliminary evaluation as they are the most commonly identified fruit crops in the DA plan and of significant value to the country. For the vegetable crops, cabbage, tomato, eggplant, and onion have been pre-selected based on stakeholder consultations and DA priorities.
Dr. Rankin explained the Value Chain Scoring and Ranking Matrix that will be used for the selection. The SEARCA project team developed the specific value chain commodity selection criteria that serves the objectives of the project, along with an associated scoring matrix with dimensions for assessment weighted accordingly. Assessment question were developed for each of the four main dimensions associated with the value chain, i.e., the economic, social, environmental, and institutional factors to determine how well the commodity selected fits with the project objectives.
SEARCA, through its Emerging Innovation for Growth Department (EIGD), aims to be a gateway to the future of agricultural development as it builds open innovation that will serve as the venue for future trends and opportunities facing agricultural and rural development in Southeast Asia. The EIGD is SEARCA's direct response to the need to provide farmers and farming families a wider access to innovative products and services, and business models for increased productivity and income through: open innovation and agri-incubation; knowledge and technology transfer; and project development, monitoring, and evaluation.