A Club for RP-Taiwan Sisterhood in Agriculture
Our Friend Toto Barcelona of Harbest Agribusiness has a bright idea. He said that if Philippine cities have sister-cities in other countries, why not sisterhood between farmer groups, from the Philippines and other countries? He has particularly in mind a sisterhood (or brotherhood?) of groups interested in agriculture from the Philippines and Taiwan.
The idea all started recently when Toto guided a group of experts from the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TARI) in going around to observe local developments in agriculture. Toto has close affinity with Taiwanese matters so it is but natural that he always thinks of things that will further enhance beneficial relationships between citizens of the two countries. First, he stayed for many years in Taiwan doing business. He is now distributing in the Philippines hybrid seeds from Taiwan’s leading seed company. And most of all, he is married to a beautiful Taiwanese.
Fostering a closer relationship between farming groups will benefit both the Filipinos and Taiwanese. Toto rightly observes that Filipino farmers are still mainly into rice, corn, vegetables and mango production. Larger farms are into sugarcane, coffee, citrus and coconut while big corporate farnis are producing bananas, pineapple and oil palm. He notes that although efforts by the government and private initiatives are helping to improve farmers’ income, we are still far from the productivity of our Taiwanese counterparts.
Toto said that there are still lots of agricultural technologies that Filipinos can learn from Taiwan that could increase their fuming incomes. On the other hand, potential investors from Taiwan can discover excellent opportunities in agricultural production here in the Philippines as exemplified by pioneering Taiwanese investors in watermelon production and aquaculture. A number of them pioneered in these fields as early as 20 years ago and are still here.
He cited the example of Wu Yu Lien who started growing seedless watermelon in Ilocos and then ended in large-scale production in Pampanga to this day. Another is Peter Lin who is a large-scale producer of melons and wateimelon in Magalang, Pampanga and Concepcion, Tarlac. Another Taiwanese investor is Gregory Lee, one of the biggest poultry producers in the country today based in Cavite.
Toto explained that agribusinessmen from Taiwan will find the Philippines as an excellent base for expanding the production of various agricultural products, and developing new markets with their Filipino partners. Because of rapid industrialization of Taiwan in the past 20 years or so, cost of agricultural production in that country has skyrocketed. This has been due to decreasing number of available labor. Most of the younger Taiwanese would rather work in business offices rather than in the farms.
The sisterhood relationship could be achieved by forming a club with a core group of volunteers that will start the ball rolling. Toto has mentioned a number of Taiwanese now involved in agribusiness in the Philippines as well as some who are in Taiwan who could be the initial members or volunteers. Likewise, he has named a number of possible Filipinos involved in agriculture who could become charter members. The members could be individuals as well as agencies or organizations. And he has suggested Formosa Filipina as a possible name of the club. The Portuguese seafarers of long ago, he explained, called the island of Taiwan “Formosa” which means beautiful. And for a long time Taiwan was better known as Formosa.
Formosa Filipina, Toto believes, can be instrumental in pursuing a more organized and more aggressive exchange of agricultural technologies. It can foster a better understanding of government policies which could improve the investment climate. It could also help develop more opportunities for cultural, social, business and technical interaction among farmer groups from both countries.
There are many things that can be done to achieve the objectives of Formosa Filipina. The club can establish linkages with Taiwanese farmers’ associations or cooperatives and communities through the Taiwan Agricultural Research Institute (TART) Philippine Economic and Cultural Office on the one hand, and the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) and Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) on the other.
BY ZAC B. SARIAN