The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) is pushing for clustering of small farms to help ASEAN farmers overcome low and inconsistent-quality yield, scattered production, high transaction costs, and poor access to markets.
In a policy paper, SEARCA recommended agricultural clusters as a strategic approach “to operationalize the appropriate channels at a scale necessary for it to have enhanced competitive strength to connect with national and international markets.”
Co-authors of the paper pointed out that an agricultural cluster is effective when there is a strong market connection and value-adding networks as a result of enhanced farmer-to-farmer interaction, value chain, and interventions such as training, investment, and subsidies.
The study showed that vegetable farmers in Mindanao, for instance, had significantly increased their production of and income from sweet pepper, bitter gourd, squash, eggplant, chayote, tomato, Baguio beans, okra, and sword pepper after joining agricultural clusters.
SEARCA noted that on the average, the farmers’ income from vegetable production increased by 47 percent from P4,909/month to P7,192/month.
“Small is beautiful but big is powerful,” SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio surmised.
Gregorio said government agencies and R&D institutions must promote specific institutional interventions to facilitate the intended benefits of the agricultural clusters.