Posted on June 02, 2014 10:48:27 PM

DISCUSSIONS with Department of Agriculture counterparts in South Korea have led to a wider partnership in livestock and grain trade, as well as technical assistance and investments, the DA said yesterday.

DA Secretary Proceso J. Alcala was in South Korea for five days, meeting with officials from that country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs — including his own counterpart, Minister Lee Dong-phil — as well as representatives of the private sector and the Philippine diaspora.

“It’s really good to look at how Korea was able to make farming profitable with its sustained agricultural productivity and technology innovations,” Mr. Alcala said at a press briefing at the DA’s head office in Quezon City yesterday.

He added that there was strong demand from Korean companies for Peking duck meat and fish from the Philippines and noted that it took eight years before the country could export chicken to South Korea.

“We hope that within the next three to four months, we can start exporting to South Korea. Their demand is huge because they have stopped importing their Peking duck from China, because China has bird flu,” he explained in Filipino.

In a statement yesterday, the DA noted that the Bureau of Animal Industry pegged the Philippines’ poultry shipment to South Korea in the first two months of the year at 1,000 metric tons (MT), worth $37,800.

Davao-based Maharlika Agro-Marine Ventures Corp. began exporting Peking duck meat to Japan in March.

Mr. Alcala noted that Philippines-based companies Benacorn Corp. and Ploughshares, Inc. signed a memorandum of understanding covering corn, silage, copra mill, palm kernel mill and total mixed fermentation feed with the Hapcheon Livestock Cooperative Union, which is the Philippines’ South Korean client for corn silage exports.

The DA chief added that the countries forged a technical cooperation partnership on natural and organic farming and that the DA was interested in Korean IT-based systems to help develop agricultural produce quality tracking systems and standards, given the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic integration next year.

On the home front, Mr. Alcala noted that while growth “isn’t too strong yet,” the government is hoping for the fisheries subsector to recover by the fourth quarter of this year, with the coconut subsector expected to take at least one year to recover.

He added that despite the uncertainty of El Niño, which might be halted should the southwest monsoon arrive in the next ten days, the DA is prepared and that careful management of rainfall within the month of July can soften the effect of a prolonged dry spell on rice farms.

“We are also pushing for increased budget to small water impounding, so that places that will get impounding need not seek to plant palay. They should instead plant root crops, plant cash crops,” he said.

Mr. Alcala also denied involvement in the multimillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam and rumors that he was being eased out of the DA as former Senator Francisco “Kiko” N. Pangilinan took on the reins of four sub-agencies.

“Allow me to state categorically that I did not deal with Ms. [Janet Lim-] Napoles in the past as a congressman of the Second District of Quezon; nor have I dealt with her in my current capacity as Secretary of Agriculture,” he said.

He added that the tell-all “Napolist” and similar lists implicating government officials should not be taken “hook, line, and sinker,” and that despite his inclusion in a list of whistleblower Benhur K. Luy — which he has not seen — his name did not appear in two affidavits that Ms. Napoles filed last.

Mr. Alcala also reiterated that he bore no ill feelings towards Mr. Pangilinan.

“For those asking as to what our relationship with Sec. Pangilinan, you can see our statements that indeed in our conversations, we hope for better cooperation with each one,” he said in Filipino. — Anton Joshua M. Santos

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