Thursday, November 26, 2015

Not Your Usual Vegetables at the Negros Showroom Market

On Tuesdays and Fridays, a farmers' market occupies the parking space at the Negros Showroom on Lacson Street. Early morning joggers, and the meticulous, health-conscious set make a stop here, and office people find this a convenient, welcome addition to an urban commercial strip.

The farmers themselves bring and sell their fruits and vegetables in this space. From farms in San Carlos City and Barangay Patag, Silay, these crops are transported in protective crates, not sacks, as a rule. Another rule is that only potable water should be used in the final wash of the produce. These rules are just part of the major reason why these fruits and vegetables are not the usual. The fruits and vegetables available at the Negros Showroom farmers' market are GAP-certified.

GAP stands for “Good Agricultural Practices,” the certification of which is issued by the Bureau of Agricultural and Fisheries Product Standards (BAFPS).

The Philippine GAP certification, adopted from the ASEAN and the global GAP, is an export requirement. Therefore, the produce at the Negros Showroom farmers' market are export quality.

A hallmark of a farm that is GAP-certified is its traceability. In the Code of Hygienic Practice for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, “traceability is the ability to follow the movement of produce through specified stages of production and distribution.”

Traceability means that one is able to identify the source of a crop, the conditions--whether of soil, water, weather, or farmer--with which it was planted, grown and picked, and even the farm inputs administered on it. Farm lots are properly coded, mapped, and fenced, water is analyzed for cleanliness, and fertilizers and pesticides are kept at the safest levels. All these agricultural activities and information are duly recorded and maintained for two years.

Good Agricultural Practices strictly uphold food safety, environmental protection, and worker's health, but if issues on these arise, traceability ensures that things can be tracked, addressed and corrected.

From planting, to harvesting, to selling, traceability gives vegetables a history that confidently deals with questions like, how far back into the chain can you claim that a product is “safe”, “fresh”, “clean”, “chemical-free”, and “fair trade”?

Indeed, these fruits and vegetables sold at competitive prices at the Negros Showroom farmers' market are not the usual; not the usual because these are unlike most of the crops in the local market that fall below food safety standards.

In the Philippines, only 39 farms are GAP-certified. Three (3) of these are farmers' organizations are in Negros. The members of these are mostly agrarian reform beneficiaries. They were all trained in GAP, qualified, and are continuously updated and linked to market.

A program called OURFood, or “Optimizing and Upscaling Roles in the Food Supply Chain” of the AFOS Foundation from Germany guides them in GAP. Its local partner is the Association of Negros Producers (ANP) which runs the Negros Showroom.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Slow Food Negros Island Summit Slated On November 27

BACOLOD, Philippines - Chefs, farmers, slow food advocates—even converts—unite at The Slow Food Negros Island Summit to give interesting insights on the most pressing issues about food, our food systems, and the way we eat.  The Slow Food Negros Island Summit will be held at the Social Hall of the Capitol Building in Bacolod City on November 27, Dr. Anabel Villanueva said yesterday.

At the summit, an introduction to Slow Food will be made by Pacita Juan, Reena Gamboa-Peña, Mia Gonzaga and Villanueva at 8 to 9 a.m. of November 27.

Ige Ramos will speak on “Tuklasin ang Katutubong Kulinaryo ng Pilipinas (discover Filipino dishes) at 9 a.m., and Nico Aberasturi -Homesteading Growing Food Instead of Lawns at 10 a.m., Villanueva said.

Margarita Fores will discuss the “The Philippines' Ark of Tastes” at 11 a.m., Hindy Weber Tantoco and Melanie Go – The Holistic Life at 1:30 p.m., Amy Besa – Green is Gold in Negros at 3 p.m. and Cherrie Attilano – Making Agriculture Smart and Sexy at 4 p.m., she added.

A Slow Food tasting by the Slow Food Negros Island Convivium will be held at noon, she said.

Slow Food Negros Island is a group of volunteers dedicated in saving endangered food, celebrating gastronomic traditions, promoting good, clean, and fair food, as well as building a healthy relationship among producers, chefs, and consumers.

Slow Food is a global, grassroots movement founded in 1989 by Carlo Petrini and a group of passionate individuals. It started when an international fast food franchise expressed its interest in opening a branch at the famous Spanish Steps in Rome, Italy. The citizens protested by sharing a big bowl of penne pasta with the crowds and began chanting “we don’t want fast food, we want slow food.” Perhaps it was the first time that it was officially coined, the tedious processes of producing and preparing various ingredients for select dishes like cheese, wine, fish, meat, as well as the traditional cooking methods have always been practiced in different parts of the world. After that incident in the ‘80s, what started as a protest to fast food grew to a global movement active in over 100 countries.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Aetas Benefit from Organically Grown Mangoes

The Preda Fair Trade project buys the mangoes of all sizes and shape and color without separation and segregation but by the kilo and pays a whopping 200 percent higher than the local traders. Now every piece of mango fruit is valuable and is enthusiastically harvested and brought to a collection point where a Preda vehicle picks it and delivers the mangoes to the processing plant three hours drive away.

The indigenous Aeta have reached the international organic standards of the European Union and have just been awarded organic certification for mangoes. This is one of the highest and most strict standards in the world. Their achievement is the first in the Philippines. No other community has achieved that standard and certification. Indeed it is a proud achievement and possible because of the non-chemical and natural practices of the Aeta in caring for their ancestral lands and agricultural practices. The training by the Preda organic team helped make it possible. Besides, other development projects were achieved also such as village water sources development and distribution of educational supplies.

There is no end to the demand for the Aeta organic mango puree in the European market place. Orders are increasing from the likes of Fair Trade Dritte Welt Partner (DWP) from Ravensburg, South Germany. DWP makes the superb Fair Trade organic products out of the mango puree and distributes them to the World Shops. The practice of Fair Trade and organic production is spreading in the Philippines as more Aeta communities join the Preda Fair Trade Aeta Farmers Association.

It is an important success story for Fair Trade as many more indigenous communities could be helped to develop their natural resources and agricultural products and better their lives and that of the whole community.


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Negros Island hosts 12th NOAC and celebrates 10th Organic Farmers Festival

Negros is annually looking forward for the Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival wherein Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental organic innovations and products are being showcased and organic farmers, advocates, top chefs, restaurateurs and tourists from all over the country gather in this annual event to celebrate organic food, organic farming, and organic lifestyle in the island. Each year is just getting bigger and brighter for the island’s agricultural industry.

2015 is going to be much different; the biggest at its finest. About 1,800 organic farmers, stakeholders from LGU’s, academe, extension workers, scientists, and experts coming from different parts of the country will visit the island for the 12th National Organic Agriculture Congress (NOAC). The province of Negros Occidental will host the National Organic Agriculture Congress in Bacolod City and to coincide with the 10th Negros Island Organic Farmers Festival, the two big events in organic agriculture in the country into one with its theme, “Farm to Table” / “Mula Taniman hanggang Hapagkainan” / “Halin Talamnan tubtub Kalan-an”.

Organized by the Department of Agriculture under the National Organic Agriculture Program, Negros Occidental Provincial Government in partnership with Organic na Negros! Producers and Retailers Association (ONOPRA), the national congress will be held on November 25-27 at SMX Convention Center, to be followed with the annual organic festival on November 25-29 at the Provincial Capitol grounds.

Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said that it proves that organic is the way to go and thanked Gov. Alfredo G. Marañon, Jr. for this.

“I have been attending the Negros Organic Festival for the past five years and is amazed of how fast it has grown,” she said.

She said that she is looking forward to having the 12th NOAC in the province of Negros Occidental and added that it is but fitting to have it in the only organic province in the country.

ONOPRA President Ramon Uy, Jr. said that the theme “Farm to Table” was selected because they want to focus and strengthen on every step of the organic supply chain in the country.

“There is no better place than to hold it here in Negros Island, the leader in organic in the country, it is only fitting to held it here because of the big organic movement of the province, we have the best examples from farm to table,” he said.

Organic stakeholders would indeed learn from our experiences and stories as we would also learn from them. Everyone is getting excited about it for this will definitely be the biggest gathering of organic agriculture in the country.

By: Karla Panganiban


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