Oro Chamber keen to tap Dutch expertise to ramp up agri production

The private sector and the Dutch government will seek ways to increase the scope of their partnership to improve agricultural production in Cagayan de Oro and Northern Mindanao.

“Oro Chamber is keen in exploring opportunities for the establishment of Waste to Energy programs for greenhouses and also set up of incubation centers for agribusiness ventures,” said Ma. Teresa R. Alegrio, regional governor for Northern Mindanao of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

The Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. (Oro Chamber) led by President Robertino E. Pizarro and the PCCI met with Netherlands Ambassador to the Philippines Marion Derckx last June 26 to explore areas of cooperation, particularly in agriculture.

“Our mission statement is to strengthen economic ties between the Philippines and the Netherlands, while contributing to inclusive development and a more sustainable world,” Derckx said in her talk during the Oro Chamber’s 2nd Quarter General Membership Meeting.

“We look for opportunities where we not only make the entrepreneur richer but more people get good jobs and we contribute to a more sustainable world,” she added.

Derckx said she sees agriculture and agri-technology as the primary area where Dutch expertise can help ramp up Mindanao’s agriculture production.

“Holland is the world’s second largest agri-food exporter and the agri-food industry is among the top three contributors to the Dutch GDP with €50.2 billion (B) in added value, accounting for almost 10 % of Dutch economy and generating employment for 660,000 people,” she said.

The Netherlands exports nearly $100 billion a year in agricultural products, second only to the United States. This sector also generated €94-B in agricultural (food and technology) in 2016, of which approximately 80% is exported to EU-member states

Due to limited land for agriculture and growing population, Derckx said the Netherlands is constrained to push for innovation, and this innovation is driven by the “Golden Triangle” of Research, Business and Government.

“Collaboration between government, private sector, research institutions, on national, regional and local level, originates from traditional cooperation in education, research and education, but now also creates frameworks for innovation.”

“The Dutch agriculture sector intends to be the world leader in sustainable solutions in agriculture in 2020. It is too important not to be ambitious,” she said.

As an indication, drones and airplanes enable Dutch farmers to do more with less by giving them detailed pictures of which areas need more or less water, fertilizers or pesticides.

“Dutch farmers are constantly educated through government centers of information,” she stressed. “Thus, there is constant professional development across the whole value chain.”

Areas of cooperation

A research on how the Philippines and the Netherlands can cooperate has been completed and among the recommendations done by the study are the following.

“Currently most of the meat in the Philippines is imported and a lot is coming from the Netherlands. There ample opportunities for raising livestock and poultry in the Philippines at home. As you saw from the data what we can do in Holland, you could really have more in the Philippines. Our horticulture, pork and dairy are far ahead of others.”

In a 2014 study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the comparison of productivity between the two countries, Dutch farmers could produce yields of 156 eggs per layer compared to only 49; 7,800 kgs of milk per cow vs. 3,600 kgs., and 13.7 metric tons of corn per hectare compared to only 2.9 MT/ha. in the Philippines.

“Domestic feed mill production, hatcheries, poultry and livestock housing, slaughterhouses - of the 75 accredited slaughterhouses in the Philippines, only four have Triple-A status,” Derckx noted. “There is also a need for smaller slaughter houses to service distant areas so you should have small solutions like we have in the Netherlands.”

Citing figures from the Department of Agriculture, the envoy said it is expected that by 2025, demand for chicken would rise by 50-60 percent and pork and beef probably 35 percent more.

Already, the Netherlands established in partnership with the DA the ATI-International Training Center on Pig Husbandry in 1985 at Lipa City, Batangas to provide training for pig farmers.

Derckx also addressed the problem of properly transporting fresh produce to the consumers.

“About 70 percent of what farmers produce in the Philippines is lost on its way from the produce to consumer,” she said. “There are many things that can be done there and we are specialized in it [transporting fresh produce].”

Region 10’s agriculture is concentrated in Bukidnon (pineapple, sugar cane, banana, corn) and Lanao del Norte (rice, coconut) while its industries are mainly found in Misamis Oriental (Phividec Industrial Estate) and Iligan City.  

Over time, its services and industrial sectors have become vertically and horizontally integrated, leading to varying degrees of interdependence and autonomy.

For instance, many agricultural products produced in Bukidnon are processed in Cagayan de Oro or the Phividec Industrial Estate in Misamis Oriental before they are shipped out abroad or to markets in the Luzon or the Visayas. Changes which adversely affect a specific link in this supply chain would inevitably have repercussions downstream and upstream of the affected sectors.

Mindanao key to PH development

The development of Mindanao in southern Philippines is key to the economic progress in the country, a World Bank study released earlier this year said.

"Unless there is development in Mindanao, it is hard to see how the Philippines can achieve sustained and inclusive growth," according to the "Mindanao Jobs Report: A Strategy of MindanaoRegional Development."

The report said the main challenge for Mindanao, like the rest of the Philippines, is how to speed up growth that creates more and better jobs and reduces poverty.

The study said that Mindanao hosts about a quarter of the country's population, but about a third of the people there are poor. Significantly reducing national poverty hinges on reducing poverty in Mindanao, the study said.

"Because Mindanao is the Philippines' main source of agricultural products, enhancing production there could reduce food and input prices, improve welfare, and make Philippine products more competitive," the study said.

Systems Orientation

Derckx said it’s not only agri-technology which can make a great difference in agricultural production but also the systems orientation of Dutch farmers.

“One example that would be great for the Philippines that I think is going to happen is not so much the technology but the way we work. We don’t sell individual machines but we talk whole concepts. You have to organize the whole community to process the waste in a certain way. In the Netherlands we are systems people, we look at full systems.”

She cited how greenhouses in Holland are sited next to industrial factories in closed loop systems to the carbon dioxide from the factories enable the greenhouse crops to grow much faster.

“Greenhouses are now complete closed loops of production with rainwater harvesting, with no need for pesticides, and full recycling. Ninety one percent of the waste in the Netherland is recycled, the rest we burn off and whatever we burn is turned into energy. So successful we even import waste from the U.K. so there is no waste anymore.”

A long partnership

The Oro Chamber has previously engaged with the Dutch government and its various agencies in the city and region.

Among these is the Oro Chamber’s Business Development Centre at P.N. Roa Drive, Upper Carmen which was made possible through the assistance of the Dutch government in 2009. The Centre has so far been used for the conduct of several entrepreneurial training programs for Oro Chamber members;

 In 1991, Oro Chamber was a recipient of a grant provided by Financierings-Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden (Dutch: Netherlands Development Finance Company or FMO) for the establishment of  an Accounting Centre for its members . SME members were able to access bookkeeping and audit services from Oro Chamber for a minimal fee.

During the 1980s, the FMO tied up with the Oro Chamber and the Mindanao Development Bank to establish a Credit Guarantee Fund which helped non-bankable, start-up member companies of Oro Chamber improve and expand their businesses.

At present, the Oro Chamber and the PUM Netherlands senior experts through the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provide short-term advisory and consultancy services for small and medium enterprises (SMEs)  in creative marketing and designs, and  productivity enhancement.  

Home grown companies  such as  SHAPII , SLERS Food Corporation, BusinessWeek Mindanao Publishing Corporation,  and San Roque  Cooperative  in  Dayawan  are just some of the SMEs who became recipients of this  program.

[Photo: Dutch Ambassador Marion Derckx with Oro Chamber Pres. Robert Pizarro (2nd from left) and PCCI-10 Reg.Gov. Ghaye Alegrio(2nd from right) and Oro Chmber officers and staff; Energy Producing Greenhouses]