By Ali Macabalang
DAVAO CITY – Sorghum farming has gained ground in southern Philippines this month, initially drawing participation from eight Mindanao provinces seeking to enhance livelihood income among their constituents, and, at the same time, help address the increasing cost of corn as traditional grain feeds in local livestock and poultry industries.
In symbolic rites here last Monday, representatives from Davao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, North Cotabato, Sarangani, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, Agusan del Sur and Basilan received their respective shares from 11.2-metric tons of sorghum seeds donated earlier by Scott Seed Company of Texas, USA, through the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA).
The ceremony highlighted the maiden orientation seminar on sorghum market prospects and production technology hosted by MinDA officials for recipient local government units in Mindanao.
Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Agrarian Reform (MAFAR) of the Bangsamoro autonomous region and Department of Agriculture’s regional offices attended the event to manifest support for the introduction of sorghum farming on a “spider web” concept meant to gradually cover most if not all provinces in Mindanao, MinDA media relations Director Adrian Tamayo said.
MinDA introduced the Sorghum Production Program as part of its advocacy to increase productivity, address poverty, and sustain the gains of the Duterte Administration in peace and development strides, Tamayo said.
It partners with PILMICO Foods Corporation, supplier of high quality feeds for aqua, hogs, and poultry, and CP Foods Philippines as the off-takers of the program, he added.
Glen Banogon, PILMICO Assistant Vice President for Nutrition, told seminar participants and observers that the feed mill industry needs an estimated 6.6-million metric tons of feed grains every year.
Due to the fluctuating price of corn, feed millers often resort to buying feed wheat to supplement the shortage for feed grains. The trend results in higher prices for locally processed poultry and livestock feeds, and increases the cost of production, he said.
“The three main considerations for sorghum are its nutritional value, availability and cost. There’s a big potential here, with DA and MinDA’s facilitation in the cultivation process and PILMICO’s help in the market aspect,” he added.
He said the availability of sorghum could lower the price of feeds, and bring down the cost of production, thus making local livestock and poultry farmers competitive.
Banogon said the feed industry needs about 600,000-metric tons of sorghum every year to be planted in estimated 200,000-hectares of under-utilized agricultural areas and ancestral domains in Mindanao.
The Sorghum feed grains production alone, not including silage production, is expected to earn farmers an estimated P8-B every year benefitting about 100,000 farming families.
Cattle fattening expert Arnel Corpuz, also a seminar speaker, said that Sorghum stalks are ideal silage materials for goats and cattle.
For his part, MinDA Chairman Manny Piñol averred at the seminar: “If we are successful with this, we will be able to bring down the cost of feeds allowing us to compete with imported meat and poultry.”
The Sorghum seeds were donated by Scott Seed Co. President Coby Krieghauser during Sec. Pinol’s visit to Texas last year when he was still Agriculture Secretary, Tamayo said.
He said Krieghauser and other American Sorghum experts were supposed to come to Mindanao for the launching of the program but Sec. Pinol dissuaded them from coming because of the COVID-19 epidemic.
On Thursday, March 5, Davao del Norte’s recipients of sorghum seeds good for 400-hectares will launch its Sorghum program focusing on Fusarium Wilt-affected banana farms in the province, Sec. Piñol said.
He said seven other provinces are expected to plant their seeds as soon as the rains come.