Agriculture cannot be sustainable unless it is profitable. A key to this is knowing what it takes to achieve profitability. This is where Go Negosyo (026379347/09166725070), founded by Joey Concepcion—who takes after his father Joecon in caring passionately for our people’s welfare—comes in.
On March 5, Go Negosyo launched “50 Inspiring Stories of Agri-Entrepreneurs.” In the introduction, mango magnate Justin Uy states: “Read the stories, and find out what made the difference between failure and accomplishment for my fellow entrepreneurs and me. Learn from our mistakes, and analyze our experiences and realize we are people just like you.”
Uy speaks from experience. He says: “I used to dry mangoes under the sun when the business was still starting. The problem was that every time it rained, I would end up with damaged, or at best, a poor quality product. This led me to design a dryer. With the success of mechanization, I was able to make several thousand times more dried mangoes than I originally did, and all with perfect quality and no losses. If I had not failed at sun drying, I would not have been where I am today.”
At the book launch, I asked Uy what he thought of agricultural technology transfer in the Philippines. He replied that much more could be done. He pointed to Philip Young, AF2025 Commercial Crops Cluster Coordinator, as well as a Golden Shell and Agora Awardee, as one of his mentors. Young believes that technology transfer can be done much more systematically with focused DA and private sector coordination.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who wrote the book’s foreword, put this public-private partnership (PPP) into practice through the Sagip-Saka Program. Twenty-four communities were launched in 2012, with about the same number to be started this year. Sagip-Saka is the operationalization of ideas to achieve a vision for agriculture in 2025.
This was crafted during the AF2025 Conference held on Feb. 10-11, 2011. More than 200 top farmers and agribusiness leaders from organizations like Alyansa Agrikultura and the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food forged a private-public partnership with the executive (Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala) and the legislative (Senator and House Agriculture Committee co-chairs Senator Francis Pangilinan and Representative Mendoza) branches.
Sagip-Saka embodies seven cornerstones that are found in varying degrees to have contributed to the success of the 50 agri-entrepreneurs: priority access to investments and credit, opening access to market, rolling out infrastructure, strengthening research and development, organizing farmer communities and cooperatives, ensuring quality and consistency of supply, and mitigating the risks brought about by climate change.
But despite programs like Sagip-Saka, and Department of Agriculture’s (DA) development initiatives, much has still to be done. The current DA management should be credited for turning around the previous administration’s zero agriculture growth in 2009 and 2010 to 2 percent and 3 percent in 2011 and 2012, respectively. But to achieve the government target of 4.2 percent-5.2 percent growth, we must add a strategic component to our current programs.
Go Negosyo role
This is where Go Negosyo can play a big role. Through this book, Go Negosyo has identified 50 of the best agri-entrepreneurs in the country. Their potential has not been harnessed in a systematic and synergistic way to guide and support the current DA programs so that the target growth rate can be achieved. More importantly, their wisdom and experience is needed to prepare our people for the 2015 Afta’s zero tariff regime. This is when our agriculture will flourish or perish, depending on our preparedness.
Alyansa Agrikultura leaders believe we are not sufficiently prepared for 2015. A strategically oriented group from among the 50 Go Negosyo successful agri-entrepreneurs should now be harnessed to provide much-needed guidance to the Department of Agriculture. This way, we will be more likely to achieve the 4.2-5.2 percent agriculture growth rate and better prepare for the 2015 Afta zero tariff regime. With their input, the 2013 P70+ billion DA budget can be more wisely used to achieve these objectives.
For individual farmer and agri-business entrepreneurs inspired by the stories of the 50 agri-entrepreneurs, Go Negosyo founder Joe Concepcion’s words are well-worth considering: “I encourage you to open your eyes and minds to the great and endless possibilities that agriculture brings. Our Motherland continues to provide us with what we need for survival and prosperity. It is now up to us to plant and nurture our own seeds of success.”
(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects and former undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org or telefax (02) 8522112).