THE European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines said that it plans to extend its five-year project, known as the EU-Philippines Business Network, which partners small and medium enterprises from Europe with domestic companies.
In a chance interview on the sidelines of the 2018 Sustainable Agriculture Forum, ECCP Executive Director Florian Gottein said that “with the European Union, we have the EU-Philippines Business Network. It is a five-year project which is aimed to bring European SMEs to the Philippines to set up shop here, to produce here, to team up with local partners and we’re now at the end of this project and we are looking to extending it.”
The EPBN started in December 2013 and is set to end on Dec. 16, 2018.
Asked about plans to extend the program, Mr. Gottein replied, “That depends on the new delegation of business… but in other countries, that has been extended for 1 and a half to 2 years so we’re looking at the same.”
Mr. Gottein said that ECCP member-companies have started investing in high-value crops in the Philippines such as coffee and cacao.
“If you look at the Philippines, the average age is 23 years while the average age of the Filipino farmer is 57 years. That’s a huge gap… A couple of our member companies are investing in high-value crops (like) coffee (and) cacao and that’s a huge market in Europe… I think there are a lot of things we can do together in order to produce more at more competitive price for the domestic market and the export market,” Mr. Gottein said.
Nestle Philippines Vice-President and Corporate Affairs Executive Ruth P. Novales meanwhile said that the company is pushing the practice of intercropping among coffee farmers to give them alternative sources of income in other parts of the year, thereby improving he productivity of their land.
Intercropping is the practice of growing a crop in the space between rows of plants of a different kind.
“There is a shift to other crops. Coffee is harvested only once a year…so we now advocate intercropping,” Ms. Novales said.
Agriculture Undersecretary Evelyn G. Laviña in a speech projected global cacao demand at 4 million metric tons by 2020, and estimated but the Philippines’ ability to service domestic demand at only 20%.
She, however, explained that the DA has a positive attitude toward the development of high value crops with the help of the private and academic sectors.
“It is the private sector that can mobilize the capital, and academic institutions that can provide the research,” Ms. Laviña said.
Former agriculture secretary William D. Dar, meanwhile, also backed a shift in focus from planting rice to growing high-value crops.
“We have to reinvent Philippine agriculture,” Mr. Dar said. — Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio