NatureFirst USA

Organic Food Is Gaining Popularity Among Pinoys

By Tet Andolong
Business Mirrow
March 18, 2009

AN increasing number of Filipinos are becoming more aware of and more
responsible about their health. They are more conscious about the welfare
of their families and go to great lengths to provide them with healthy,
fresh and organic dishes. Studies show that diabetes, heart disease,
hypertension and some cancer-related diseases are caused by eating
unhealthy foods. This probably explains why people are now “going green”
or switching to organic foods.

According to Mara Pardo de Tavera of the Organic Producers Trade
Association (Opta), who spoke during the Good News Kapihan held at
EchoStore (Environment & Community Hope Organization Store) in Serendra
recently, “There is nothing like eating fresh produce—raised and harvested
by natural and sustainable farming methods—that is healthy and nourishing
to the body.”

“Organic gardening is about growing [produce] without chemical
fertilizers, naturally building the soil to support healthy plant life.
One of the basic tenets of organic gardening is to ‘feed the soil and the
soil will feed the plants.’ It benefits not just people, but also the land
and our pets, who are often accidentally exposed to pesticides sprayed on
people’s lawns and gardens. It also benefits wildlife if pesticide residue
is kept out of our waterways and land. Global warming is happening because
of human follies, including our use of pesticides, herbicides and
fungicides in our air and soil,” de Tavera said.

Echostore also launched the “Malunggay Green Kids”—a feeding program in
partnership with Kabisig ng Kalahi Foundation to help feed malnourished
children six years old and below. Moringa is the scientific name for
malunggay and of the 13 malunggay species, Moringa oleifera is the most
nutritious one, which has four times the amount of vitamin A found in
carrots, seven times the vitamin C in oranges, three times the potassium
in bananas, just to name a few.

On the other hand, Philippine Development Assistance Programme executive
director Jerry Pacturan is working to increase production and patronage of
healthier and more profitable organic products such as organic rice and
muscovado sugar.

The organic industry is still small and in its infancy. From an estimated
95 hectares planted with organic rice in 1997, the area increased to
14,538 hectares in 2004. There are now at least 36,709 organic-rice
farmers in the country. Currently, the two major gaps in this industry are
technical support at the field level and marketing at the consumer end,
both of which are necessary to scale up organic-rice production and move
the organic-rice industry into the mainstream market.

The muscovado industry in the country started in the precolonial period
but was left behind with the introduction of modern technologies. It has
again become a “sunrise” industry when the demand for muscovado in the
international market picked up due to the increasing healthy lifestyles in
Europe, Japan and North America. The Philippines has been exporting
muscovado to Japan, Switzerland, Australia, the United States and Germany
since 1987. In 2003 the country recorded a sales of $3,689,869 compared
with $785,784 in 2002.

Like other commodities, the muscovado industry is faced with challenges in
production, processing, financing, marketing and institutional support.
Production is declining due mainly to expensive production inputs,
improper technology, lack of good sugar-cane varieties and land conversion.

The Opta has formed the Organic Farming Production, Training and
Consultancy Inc., which offers training and consultancy services to farm
owners who want to adopt organic practices in their farming venture. This
initiative has led to the propagation of the economic and environmental
benefits of organic farming among the farm owners in the country. These
organizations are waiting for Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, who last
year declared the release of $500 million. They want to see the money used
in conversion grants, extension works, comparison studies, modern
technologies, technical support, farmers’ welfare and financing. They
haven’t seen a single centavo.



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