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Philippine vegetable sector shows strong potential

Vegetable farmers in the Philippines show strong potential to compete with ASEAN counterparts for the $2 billion Asia-Pacific market which is expected to grow to $3 billion by 2021.

The Philippines currently only has $240-M share in the growing Asia-Pacific vegetable market lagging behind Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia and has to regularly import more than $3-M worth of vegetables.

“There is a lot of potential in the Philippine vegetable sector. Annually, the country’s vegetable production is increasing by almost 2% and the growth of area being dedicated to planting vegetables is at 1.7%. The country’s annual growth rate for vegetable production is close to 2%, not enough to meet even the local demand for vegetables. That is why we still need to import more than $3-M worth of vegetables which could ideally be supplied by our local farmers. East-West Seed, an integrated vegetable seed company and one of the 10 largest seed companies in the world, hopes to remedy this situation by influencing more farmers to earn more by planting vegetables in addition to their existing crops. We do this by making vegetable farming easy and accessible and providing our smallholder farmers with the right kinds of seeds and teaching them modern techniques,” said Mary Ann Sayoc, East-West Seed General Manager.

Sayoc adds that vegetable farming is very profitable, citing for example that a 1,000 square meter of land planted with bitter gourd yields the same income as one hectare planted with rice.

Dr. Mary Ann Sayoc, general manager of East-West Seed in the Philippines, talks about realizing the potential of the country’s vegetable sector by supporting smallholder farmers.

Sayoc said that East-West Seed is on a mission to help smallholder farmers realize the potential of vegetable farming and how it could be a lucrative business as well as change the mindset, especially of the younger generation, that agriculture is a difficult and unrewarding job.

“East-West Seed saw that there are three challenges facing the local vegetable industry: Our inability to compete in the billion dollar Asia-Pacific vegetable market, the perception that vegetables is not a profitable business and the low volume of vegetables thereby affecting food and nutrition sustainability. All these three challenges, East-West Seed is helping to address,” Sayoc said.

The inadequate supply of fresh produce is also seen as one of the reasons why Filipinos are among the lowest consumers of vegetables in the Asia-Pacific region on a per capita level.

“The Philippines consumes less than half the amount of vegetables that Vietnam does. Over 30% off the Philippine population is overweight and malnourished. Therefore, an increase in the availability, affordability and consumption of nutrient-dense vegetables is one way to combat malnutrition. East-West Seed is in partnership with the Department of Agriculture and other stakeholders to combat this problem,” she said.

Sayoc said for all of the problems facing the local vegetable industry, the solution could start with one quality seed.

“If we provide farmers with quality seeds, then they get better yield and they would earn more. When growers see vegetable farming as a profitable venture, this leads to a better supply of fresh produce in our local market and lower importation. If more vegetable farmers become successful, then we completely change the perception that vegetable farming is not a lucrative profession because truth be told, there are thousands of vegetable farmers out in our fields right now who are earning more than most professionals,” Sayoc adds.

Go Grow, a special product for first-timers
As a testament to their support to the local smallholder farmers and the Philippine vegetable industry, East-West Seed, on its 35th year is launching “Go Grow,” a product category aimed at first-time and amateur farmers that meets the farmers’ two most important needs: technical guides and a simplified variety of selection. Through the “Go Grow” range, East-West Seed hopes to influence more farmers to plant vegetables in addition to their already existing crops since cultivating vegetables could help the farmers grow and diversify their income while reducing their exposure to climate risks such as drought, as vegetables typically require less water.

“The Go Grow seed range was carefully selected to include easy-to-grow vegetables with strong potential in the market such as sitaw, hot peppers, tomatoes, eggplants, ampalaya, okra and pumpkin. Go Grow is the only vegetable seed product in the market that includes a card with specific instructions on cultivation and a QR code that links farmers to an online Plant Doctor service to help manage issues with pest and diseases as they arise,” Sayoc adds.

Go Grow also includes a planting calendar, guiding the farmers from the seed sowing stage until the vegetables are ready for harvest.

Nationwide search for Farmer Heroes
Also as part of its 35th anniversary, East West Seed launched a nationwide Search for 35 Farmer Heroes who have achieved success and made a significant contribution to their communities and could serve as role models for other farmers on how vegetable farming can be used to enrich lives.

“We have asked each of the 18 regions we operate in to nominate and award 35 farmers during the Roadshows as “Regional Champs”. The national winners, who are selected from the same pool of nominees as the Regional Champs (2 winners per region), will then be hailed as the “35 National Farmer-Heroes,” Sayoc adds.

East-West Seed hopes to document the success stories and best practices of the hero farmers to inspire others and to showcase the available improved technologies for vegetable production, increased productivity, improved food security, sanitation and safety thereby contributing to the country’s economic development and growth of farmers' income.

“Our ultimate objective is to inspire others to become successful vegetable farmers and in the end reduce, if not resolve, the challenges that the local vegetable industry is now facing,” Sayoc said.

For more information:
East-West Seed
No. 50/1 Moo 2, Sainoi-Bang Bua
Thong Rd, Amphur Sainoi, Nonthaburi
T: +66 (02) 831 7700
F: +66 (02) 923 7794

Publication date: 6/30/2017



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