Davao organic group eyes certification of 100 local organic farms

August 26th, 2015 by

DAVAO CITY — Davao’s Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) group is looking to give organic certification to up to 100 small farms in the city as construction of a permanent organic produce trading post goes on in the city center.

Nena R. Morales, Davao-PGS chairwoman, said the group has already awarded certificates to five organic farmers and farms so far. Twenty are currently being assessed, with several still lined up for the rest of the year.

The PGS, as defined by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) headquartered in Germany, “are locally focused quality assurance systems. They certify producers based on active participation of stakeholders and are built on a foundation of trust, social networks and knowledge exchange.”

Ms. Morales further explained that under the PGS, an organic farmer is examined by a peer network of organic farmers and stakeholders that verify compliance with established standards.

The certification from Davao-PGS, which is recognized by IFOAM, involves organic farmers, the City Agriculturist Office (CAO), City Veterinarian Office, and the Department of Agriculture.

CAO Program Coordinator Joselito S. Tabora earlier said the office supports the PGS as it gives small farmers an opportunity to be certified at low cost.

Ms. Morales also said the PGS levels the playing field among organic producers in the country because it provides a certification window for backyard farmers at a minimal P100.

For her part, Joy V. Enriquez, watershed campaign officer of non-government organization Interface Development Interventions (IDIS), said the PGS will help keep the prices of organic produce affordable to more consumers.

Prior to the adoption of the PGS, the only available certification was from the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines, which costs P25,000 to P40,000 per organic
commodity, with annual renewal.

Under Republic Act 10068, the Organic Agriculture Law, farmers are not allowed to label products organic unless certified by a body accredited by the Bureau of Agriculture and Fisheries Product Standards. PGS advocates last year campaigned for its own system to be institutionalized through an amendment of the law, in light of its recognition by IFOAM.

Davao City still adopted the PGS as its own certification system “because we believe this will better serve our local and small-scale farmers,” City Agriculturist Rocelio T. Tabay told BusinessWorld last year.

In 2014, only one farm in the city, covering 50 hectares planted with banana and various vegetables, was certified as organic. The farm’s output is mainly exported to Japan.

Mr. Tabora said a campaign is needed to increase public awareness on organic products to help increase market penetration.

“More social awareness is needed on the benefits of organic products.

Food products that have synthetic materials in production are generally believed to have negative effects on the health of consumers,” Mr. Tabora said.

At present, the city government hosts the Friday Organic Farmers Market in one corner of Rizal Park located in front of the city hall.

A P1.9-million structure beside the city’s Pasalubong Center near People’s Park is now being built to serve as a permanent venue for buying and selling organic produce.

Ms. Morales said they also support shopping malls and supermarkets that allocate space for organic food and goods.

Most organic crops in the city are rice, vegetables, and fruits. (Maya M. Padillo, BUSINESSWORLD)