Wanted: Younger farmers in PH
MANILA, Philippines – Tony Tan Caktiong, the person behind Asia's largest food service firm Jollibee Foods Corporation (JFC), foresees a gap in agricultural workforce in the Philippines: a new generation that will replace the current farmers.
Citing recent studies, STI Education Services Group Incorporated said the average age of farmers in the Philippines is 57 years old.
This raises alarm over the possible future gap in human resource requirements for agriculture and poses a threat to food security and sustainability.
For STI chairman Eusebio Tanco, persuading young Filipinos and their parents to consider the agriculture track is a tough sell, thinking there is no viable career in the industry.
STI said the condition of farmers in agricultural areas also dissuades the youth from pursuing higher education in related courses.
"Even a typical farmer would not encourage his children to get into agriculture as a career," the institution said.
Faced with a possible human resource gap, companies are working with colleges and universities to provide young Filipinos the academic education needed to succeed in the industry.
Biggest poultry buyer ties up with STI
The latest is the partnership between Jollibee, the country's biggest buyer of chicken deals, and STI.
Jollibee buys 80% of chicken supplies directly from local poultry farmers. It is only during Christmas that Jollibee imports from the US.
It has partnered with STI to "reinvent agricultural education" in the country.
Jollibee founder Tan Caktiong said in a statement that it recently signed an agreement with STI, involving the establishment of an academic institution with programs in agro-entrepreneurship, agricultural technology, logistics, and quick-service restaurants, among others.
"My experience in [Jollibee] has given me unique perspectives on the challenges and importance of having a consistent and reliable supply of high-quality agricultural products," Tan Caktiong said.
Tan Caktiong said they will transform STI College in Tanauan, Batangas to be the initial vehicle for this collaboration.
"I am excited with this collaboration as it will help to uplift the agricultural and related sectors through education, another potential means for us to contribute to nation-building," he added. (READ: A Filipino farmer's plea: 'Support us, love us')
The new school will house "state-of-the-art agriculture facilities and equipment" such as greenhouses, field laboratories, livestock and poultry farms, as well as a rainwater harvesting system.
It will also be equipped with industry-grade simulation laboratories, air-conditioned classrooms with flat screen TVs, student activity centers with internet connection, a covered basketball court, and multimedia centers.
For STI and Tan Caktiong, agriculture sector is indispensable in the Philippines' strategy for inclusive growth.
"While there are many multifaceted factors that affect food security and sustainable development in agriculture, education plays a critical role in changing mindsets and remains to be a key element in addressing these threats and challenges," STI's Tanco said.
Visioning a farm-to-table school, Tanco said STI will also offer courses on managing quick-service restaurants focused on developing the technical and entrepreneurial skills of its students.
These new courses will effectively contribute to improved food security, sustainable agricultural production, and rural development, STI said. – Rappler.com