Alfredo R. Paguila : “Good seeds should be recycled just once”
An Isabela seed grower shares his back story and insights on how to make a more sellable yield.
Hardwork is no stranger for entrepreneurs like Alfredo Arpagila. Apart from being a farmer in Alicia, Isabela, one of the country’s most well known granaries, Alfredo holds a valuable position at the National Food Authority (NFA) and owns a town hospital, managed by his wife doctor.
The role of a farmer was bestowed to him as far back as he was just in high school, “My parents were residents of Isabela,” he cheerily recalled. “They were farmers, so they taught me everything I know, basically-down from cultivating the soil up to harvesting. I grew up watching them work in the farm with other farmers, so as early as junior high, I already knew my agriculture. And that’s what I did with my children too,” he said.
To back up what seemed to be an early inheritance, he took up commerce and accounting in college and was inspired to work for the private sector at first. This was where he beefed himself up on corporate experience, until the farm beckoned him back to the province.
That time, his parents who owned a lo-hectare farm, were renting out their property to augment their income. When he came back, he noticed that this was the fad in Isabela, but Alfredo saw beyond the norm. He knew there was more to their farms.
“And because my parents have been good landlords, the tenants were kind enough to return the farms without asking anything in return. And just like that, I started managing a lo-hectare farm,” continued Alfredo.
While most people would have opted for Alfredo’s farms to be rented, as he was making good money in the corporate world, he chose to come back to his roots and look after the farms himself.
“I had to apply what I was taught for so many years and compound that with the new technology I picked up from studying. I started with getting a new set of farmers and helpers; and since the farm was already tilled, ‘seeds were available and there was accessible irrigation, I didn’t necessarily start from scratch. I was blessed,” said Alfredo.
From there on, everything seemed to fall into its proper place. He partnered with the Department of Agriculture (DA) to modernize his agricultural practices and attended trainings on technologies which he could put to practical use. Determined to really give the farm a total makeover, the astute businessman also started a small backyard fishpond, which contributed to his workers’ income.
After a few years and more extensive learning from hands-on farming, Alfredo decided to put another title to his belt and train as a proper seed producer.
This was where he learned two important things. He realized getting good seeds weren’t easy to get. “So I was forced to get the seeds straight from other seed producers, which was costly most of the time. At first, I used the good ones thrice or more. But eventually, I learned as well that the quality of the yield diminished overtime. This was when I realized that seed growing and producing was quite a good way to expand, so I knew I had to take it more seriously,” he said.
This development was in synch with the progress in their farm. Ten hectares blossomed to 40, and this compelled him to attend weekly agricultural trainings, where he was introduced to hybrid rice, among others. He was very proud to share that for six years now, being a seed grower has paid off more compared to being an executive in one of the country’s top government agencies.
On the other hand, his 36 years in NFA also proved to be beneficial. As he was starting to be a better seed producer, the contacts he made as a junior executive helped him connect with other seed producers, farmers and companies. This helped Alfredo to create and maintain an active network.
And as his seeds company in Isabela kept. attracting commercial attention, he deemed it nothing short of proper to give something back to the community. “Normally, I would just store everything in the warehouse and wait until the next farming season, but since I figured I could help others like me, I decided to give some of them to the Isabela Seed Growers Cooperative. At the same time, I leave stocks for the farm.”
When the rice crisis hit the country a few years ago, Alfredo was anxious at first that it was going to hit the industry immensely and negatively, with entrepreneurs like them in tow. To his surprise, the demand skyrocketed further and their company grew bigger than before. At present, his seeds are priced at Php1,200 at 40 kilos. Volume of production is on the average of 110 to 120 bags per hectare, different varieties of which he sells within and outside Isabela.
Recycling, he discovered, isn’t always good, at least in the seed business. Reusing good seeds, as profitable as it may sound, makes poor harvest, thus lowering sellable yield. He advises farmers to use certified seeds-which may be purchased from seed institutions as well-only once or twice. This was a lesson he had to learn the hard way.
“Seed growers and producers are built and educated differently. If your area’s too small, payments may be delayed. Some earn from seed growing, some earn from both, some fail to earn anything. In fact, just a few years back, there were 25 seed growers. Today, there are just almost dozen,” he shared.
Additionally, he noticed that farmers tend to rely and depend completely on what the government does, particularly with the DA’s programs. He advised agri entrepreneurs to spend valuable time in weighing the odds and analyze stocks before deciding on anything major. To expand, he said, business analysis is always the key.