URC partners with Department of Agriculture to help support local potato farmers

In support of the Duterte administration’s major initiative of fostering a more productive and progressive agriculture sector through inclusive growth and sustainable development, Universal Robina Corp. (URC) has partnered with the Department of Agriculture (DA) to help accelerate the development of the local potato farming communities by helping increase their annual yield and scale-up up their productivity output.

Dubbed “Sustainable Potato Program,” the collaborative effort aims to support DA’s Potato Industry Roadmap which targets to enhance the competitiveness of the local potato industry.

In signing ceremonies held today at its head office in Quezon City between the Department of Agriculture and the country’s leading food and beverage company URC, Irwin C. Lee, URC President and CEO said the partnership is a momentous occasion for both the DA and URC in their work towards achieving inclusive growth and sustainable development. With more than 60 years of food-making experience in the Philippines, URC has a long and fruitful relationship with DA.

“This initiative advances our multi-stakeholder sustainability agenda to accelerate the local potato farming communities’ full economic, social and environmental benefits. It also forms part of URC’s People and Planet Friendly Strategy which seeks to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth both for the company and its important stakeholders such as our local potato farmers.” Lee said.

For his part, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said he is happy to note that private sector and businesses like URC are collaborating with the agency’s effort to deliver its mandate under the Duterte administration, which is to produce food and address poverty.

Secretary Piñol said DA’s currents efforts are focused on the production and trade of two commodity groups: firstly, staple food commodities to ensure food sufficiency and security and secondly high value crops to generate jobs and foreign earnings.

“As we are fully committed to this partnership with URC, I am confident that this sustainable potato program will help bring prosperity to agriculture and bring about the development of a competitive potato industry in the country,” said Piñol.

Under the program, URC will be providing high quality imported Granola potato seeds from Canada, a widely cultivated potato variety, as farm inputs to select potato farming communities from the provinces of Benguet, Mt. Province, Bukidnon and Davao del Sur. These seeds will be donated to the farmer cooperatives and will serve as initial funding for the program. 

When planted, these seeds will cover a total land area of 62 hectares and is projected to produce 2,700 MT (or 2,700,000 kilograms) of potatoes on the first cycle.  This initial donation 135MT of potato seeds will be used for 4 production cycles which is equivalent to 2 crop years.  This means that total generated potatoes after four cycles is estimated to reach 337,500MT.

In addition, the farmer cooperatives will also be given access to training, research and development in cooperation with DA’s attached agencies such as the Bureau of Plant Industry, the Agricultural Training Institute and select State Universities and Colleges.  These partners will provide the capability building seminars/trainings to farmers to improve potato production quality and its commercial value. Moreover, potato farmers will be given access to market by linking the farming communities to URC’s affiliate Robinsons Supermarket’s 160 retail outlets nationwide.

URC Chairman and JG Summit Holdings Inc., President and CEO Lance Y. Gokongwei said the Gokongwei Group share the vision of President Duterte to have a more productive and progressive agricultural sector in our society that will help ensure food security for the nation.

“This initiative augurs very well with our own company’s mission of making life better for Filipinos through our various businesses because through this program, a government-initiated and supported aggressive marketing campaign especially for high-value crops like potato, will help the farming communities’ full economic, social and environmental benefits be fully realized,” Gokongwei said.

Potato is a high-value crop produced mainly in Cordillera Administrative Region, Northern Mindanao and Davao regions. The country’s potato production area presently covers an area of 7,744 ha. The average yield for the past five years currently stands at 117,952 MT. According to agriculture experts, local production requires an average of 20,000 MT of quality /certified seed tubers. 

The potato industry significantly contributes to the economy for its entire value chain – from the input provision, production, marketing to employment. In 2017, market demand peaked at 380,333 MT of fresh potatoes, while previous year’s output closed at only 116,783MT. This put a whopping 69% local supply shortage. In the same year alone, the country imported 121,652 MT pre-processed fries which is equivalent to 243,304 MT fresh potatoes. Hopefully, through this program, the DA will be able to help address this gap in the country’s potato requirement.

URC – DA PROGRAM FOR POTATO FARMERS. Photo shows (top row from left) Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel F. Pinol (7th from left) and officials from the Bureau of Plant Industry led by Director George Y. Culaste and Asst. Director Lorna E. Herradura (9th and 10th from left, respectively) with URC Chairman and JG Summit Holdings President and CEO Lance Y. Gokongwei (6th from left) and URC President and CEO Irwin C. Lee (8th from left), together with URC and JG Summit executives and the representatives from the different potato farming communities at the ceremonial event to mark the partnership held at the DA’s central office in Quezon City.