Private sector to promote linkages between big business, small farmers --- Concepcion

With agriculture expected to be on top of President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s agenda, Go Negosyo founder Joey Concepcion believes small farmers can grow and become successful in a more inclusive agricultural ecosystem with the help of the private sector.

Go Negosyo Founder Joey Concepcion (Photo courtesy of Go Negosyo)

Concepcion said this after Executive Secretary Vic Rodriguez affirmed that agriculture and food security would be one of the focus of Marcos' first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25. Marcos is also the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary.

In a statement, Concepcion, vice chair of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MSMED) Council, stressed that agriculture is the key to the Philippines' growth.

He added that a healthy agriculture industry would enable the country to handle future food supply crises better, especially with the private sector's participation through the Kapatid Angat Lahat program. The said aims to create linkages between big businesses and MSMEs to aid inclusive growth.

In a recent meeting, business people from the agriculture sector shared possible ways big businesses can help MSMEs scale up and become more productive, particularly by rebuilding the agriculture value chain to make it more inclusive.

The group is comprised of the following major players in Philippine agriculture:

  • Universal Leaf Phils. President Winston Uy
  • SL Agritech founder and FFCCIII President Henry Lim Bon Liong
  • Bounty Fresh CEO Tennyson Cheng
  • W Hydrocolloids Inc. and Marine Resources Devt. Corp. Chairwoman Rosalind Wee
  • Jose Cojuangco & Sons COO Nando Cojuangco.

Former Piddig, Ilocos Norte Mayor Eddie Guillen was also present to share how raising agricultural productivity helped lower poverty in his town from 40 percent to nine percent. He said the national government should listen to local governments regarding addressing agriculture.

According to Concepcion, among the suggestions put forward during the meeting was to rebuild the value chain so that farmers are rewarded commensurate with the amount of work they do and the risk they take.

There were also calls for data-based and science-backed practices in agriculture, such as the improvement of the country's databases on commodities, more focus on soil health, particularly for crops like rice and sugar, and investment in weather planning.

Other suggestions called for cooperativism at the municipal level, and the industry should strive to produce premium, high-value crops, especially rice.

The businessmen also suggested addressing structural issues and outdated policies, consolidating idle land, reducing volatility, and mitigating it through better crop insurance to create a better foundation for private sector-led growth in agriculture.

They likewise offered that small farmers can benefit from the scale, technology, and best practices of big business, such as in meat processing and post-harvest processing of crops. Proper handling of produce and better logistical procedures can reduce the current high rejection rates among local produce and make it more profitable for vegetable farmers. They said the farmers could earn more per square meter of land if they increased their productivity and improved their handling and logistical processes.

Concepcion said small farmers should adopt an entrepreneur's mindset.

"The driving force really is entrepreneurship. All the elements needed to successfully create a sustainable model are already practiced here: money, markets, and mentorship," he said.

Concepcion was referring to the three pillars that form Go Negosyo and its program dedicated to agripreneurship, Kapatid Agri Mentor Me Program (KAMMP). The program allows big businesses to participate in inclusive agribusiness programs and cooperatives development.

"With agriculture now devolved, the programs can be scaled through partnerships at the national and local level," he said.