MANILA, Philippines - Government and private sector leaders recently said the growth of agricultural biotechnology has boosted the country’s prospects for increased food and feed export to the regional market while reducing overall grains importation.
According to Agriculture Undersecretary Segfredo Serrano, higher yields for the yellow corn biotech variety “favored the livestock industry and enabled farmers to export corn sillage to South Korea.”
The Philippine agriculture sector planted a total of 795 hectares to biotech corn last year, marking a six-percent growth and expanding its share in the total of 175 million hectares planted to biotech crop varieties last year.
Serrano confirmed reports by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research (SEARCA) that the farm income of farmers engaged in biotech crop cultivation have reached nearly P400 million over a nine-year period. The report also said the country has achieved self-sufficiency in yellow corn over the same period.
Advances in biotech crop cultivation is key to improving the country’s food security and reducing the country’s reliance on imported corn, he noted. Serrano also confirmed that higher biotech yellow corn harvests have helped the country stop the annual importation of some one million metric tons of this commodity which is used by the livestock industry.
The DA announced last year that corn export is part of the government’s program, with South Korea and Malaysia as initial target markets. It disclosed that the National Food Authority (NFA) council has recommended the exportation of some 50,000 to 100,000 tons of yellow corn to avert a drop in local market prices due to surplus.
Private sector producers and exporters said South Korea is currently importing close to 80 percent of its corn requirements from Vietnam. Local producers are eyeing at least a 20-percent share in the hefty South Korean market which has some three million metric ton requirement for corn feed for its cow population of about five million heads.
The Philippines started the cultivation of the biotech corn variety in 2002.
As of 2013, some 380,000 small farmers in the country have used the biotech corn variety for increased land productivity, higher income, and environmental protection.
Biotechnology has enabled the said corn variety to develop a natural resistance to pests, helping farmers save on production costs and decreasing reliance on chemical pesticides.