Philippine agriculture

[ANALYSIS] How one company boosts farmer productivity inside the farm gate

Dean de la Paz

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[ANALYSIS] How one company boosts farmer productivity inside the farm gate

Alyssa Arizabal/Rappler

With Vietnam’s commitment to reduce chemical fertilizer use by 40% by 2030, by importing a 100% Philippine product, a pivotal role is created not only for Filipino farmers but for sustainability goals throughout the ASEAN region

On the corporate front, there’s good news for our rice farmers.

Determined to reduce debilitating food inflation by focusing on that one staple with the highest impact on kitchen table costs, BioPrime Agri Industries Incorporated (BioPrime Philippines), a Philippine company incorporated in 2019, started developing inexpensive non-chemical and non-synthetic fertilizers in the country.

Fully committed to reestablishing our agricultural leadership among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members by setting up a regional manufacturing hub, BioPrime Philippines acquired the manufacturing and intellectual property (IP) rights for biofertilizer technologies already in global use by farmers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Paraguay, and a number of African countries like Tanzania and Kenya.

Where the acquisition transfers operations from the US to the Philippines, its fully developed international markets immediately form part of our Philippine exports. Aside from generating skilled local employment, this creates as much as $500 million in yearly export earnings that offset the estimated cost of soil nutrient-depleting chemical fertilizers farmers import at over $900 million yearly.

From inside the farmgate, on the side of the farmers who are often left to carry the heaviest burdens of raw input costs, BioPrime Philippines is likewise aggressively providing essential support that spells the difference between low and high productivity, low and higher incomes earned, and true inclusive growth specific for our rice farmers.

Replacing high-cost imported chemical fertilizers while developing an export product to reestablish the Philippines as an agricultural powerhouse, BioPrime Philippines’ planned production capacity sufficient for 12 million hectares per year translates to a definitive narrowing of the perennial rice domestic production gap that keeps rice prices high and rice farmers undercompensated.

BioPrime Philippines achieves this through several means.

One, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), under proven and repeated trials across several regions, BioPrime has shown increased yields and reduced fertilizer input costs by as much as 50%. That is important where farmers depend 90% on imported fertilizers which ironically are 90% imported from China.

Two, these tests have also proven that BioPrime reduces if not totally eliminates the need for costly and harmful chemical pesticides that not only negatively affect immediate areas cultivated but neighboring farms as well. Net of the cost for BioPrime, studies show that farmers can earn as much as an incremental P30,000 to P 40,000 per hectare.

Three, following the Vietnamese carbon credits model in which BioPrime Philippines helped develop along the Mekong Delta, using high-tech drone technology, the company seeks to generate carbon credits where its income is shared with farmers who use BioPrime. This is in addition to the company’s commitment to allocate 2.5% of gross revenues to non-profit programs that support farmers though education, technology transfer, and farm sustainability programs.

Four, tests on BioPrime conducted by the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development not only validate the Philippine results but open yet another export avenue for BioPrime Philippines.

With Vietnam’s commitment to reduce chemical fertilizer use by 40% by 2030, by importing a 100% Philippine product, a pivotal role is created not only for Filipino farmers but for sustainability goals throughout the ASEAN region.

Five, due to price volatilities of imported petroleum and chemical-based fertilizers, with the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, fertilizer prices increased exponentially from P800 per bag of urea to as much as P3,000 per bag. In comparison, BioPrime prices showed no fluctuations. The product has effectively zero correlation to fossil fuels and energy prices.

Six, unlike chemical-based imported pesticides and fertilizers, BioPrime contains live microorganisms that colonize inside plants thus increasing a plant’s nutrients and subsequently, crop yields where BioPrime also reduces the soil acidity created by the continuous application of chemical fertilizers.

Finally, sensing the Philippines’ vulnerability during continuous periods of volatile chemical fertilizer prices, the company currently has a strategic stockpile of close to 1,000,000 hectares of inventory to strategically mitigate food security risk. This inventory is ready for immediate distribution.

In the last IRRI International Rice Conference held in the Philippines, Dr. Cao Duc Phat, IRRI chairman of the board of trustees and three-time minister of the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, singled out BioPrime as among three revolutionary developments in rice technology. Specifically, he sees BioPrime as a game-changer in yield, income and sustainability not seen in agricultural development in the last 40 years.

Indeed, in terms of technological advancement, with BioPrime, the Philippines can regain leadership in ASEAN agriculture. –

Dean de la Paz is a former investment banker and managing director of a New Jersey-based power company operating in the Philippines. He is the chairman of the board of a renewable energy company and is a retired Business Policy, Finance, and Mathematics professor. He collects Godzilla figures and antique tin robots.

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