Sunday, March 01, 2020

UPSEAA lecture 5, Iggy Sison and Del Monte pineapple farming

Last Thursday, I attended another UPSE Alumni Association (UPSEAA) Boardroom Lectures, the speaker was fellow UPSE alumni, Ignacio "Iggy" Sison, the Chief Corporate Officer of Del Monte Pacific Ltd (DMPL). The lecture was held at their office in BGC, Taguig City.

Iggy discussed their firm's many sustainability projects, details here,

Here Iggy getting the Certificate of Appreciation from UPSEAA President, Jeffrey Ng. Both are from batch 1986, along with VP Leni Robredo.

Towards the end of his lecture, Iggy showed photos of their wide pineapple plantation in Bukidnon, their big tractors, pesticide sprayer, drone, etc. Successful corporate farming, science-based including having plant geneticists and agronomists, having economies of scale. They don't own even a single hectare, the whole 26k+ hectares are under long term lease from many small landowners in the province. This points to a future corporate rice and corn farming, veggies and animal farming in the country.

I own a 2nd hand, small rotor tractor in Pangasinan for rent. A hand tractor works faster than carabao tilling by at least 5x, a rotor tractor works at least 5x faster than a hand tractor. Rotor operator says the small plots make the work slower, he has to make slow turns on edges, reverse, forward to another edge. An hectare of rice field is sometimes divided into 10 small plots, depending on elevation. That's small or micro farming.

Corporate farming will change these, huge straight plots for many hectares, use big rotor tractors that can work at least 20x faster than a hand tractor, farming costs go down, harvest and productivity go up, rice prices can significantly go down even without rice imports from TH, VN.

Not that I will go into corporate farming, am just a micro entrepreneur. But I will support big rich guys and companies going into corporate farming. Like what Del Monte does -- lease long term from small landowners, hire them, give them good pay, private but free education for their kids, private but free hospital, community services, etc. Win win for all, except perhaps for local and national politicians who will be unhappy to see more self reliant citizens, less dependent on them.

Sugarcane farming in Hda Luisita, Tarlac, even in my province Negros Occ., they are not in the corporate farming league, more of individual proprietorship and partnership, and not integrated to direct customers. Sugarcane goes straight to sugar milling companies, where profit is larger,

Another fellow UPSE alumni but not in the UPSEAA viber group, Reuel R. Hermoso, commented in my fb wall where I discussed Iggy's lecture. He wrote:

... Over the years, we've seen how the interest of younger people in agriculture seems to have waned. CARP with its land-to-the-tiller slogan looks good on paper and for the generation that actually tilled the land. But that generation is starting to die out, and their children are no longer interested in farming. It's the succession issue that DAR seemed to be trying to address but really couldn't because they were bent on their land distribution targets -- support through market access, R&D/extension, credit and financing, farming inputs, machinery, and infrastructure were there but were never enough to meet the beneficiaries' requirements.

It's really an uphill battle for many of them -- as well it should be. If the market is the basis for agricultural production, then naturally the less efficient, less productive ones will be left biting the dust. Majority of them will have to slide down to subsistence farming, and we don't like that. It doesn't help our poverty reduction targets, especially rural poverty.

In the end, I think corporate farming will be the only way to go. I just got back yesterday from Tugueguerao, and Dr. Arnold Elepaño (Dean of the College of Agricultural Engineering in UP Los Baños) and I made a side trip to the Isabela-La Suerte Rice Milling Corporation in San Manuel, Isabela. They have arguably the most modern rice processing facilities in the country, with a control room where just a couple of folks manage the flow of palay feedstock through the dehusking, sorting, silo storing, and eventual bagging of rice. They want to involve themselves in the upstream of farm production, because the present scale and volume of production is just too small for the level and amount of throughput that their system could optimally handle -- and it's HUGE. As in, boilerplate capacity is good as advertised! And with rice farming systems in this country still basically stuck in the mid-20th century, they have to literally grab the old carabao by the horns and pull it into 21st century, with upscale mechanization for tillers, transplanters, harvesters, and combines. I won't be surprised if AI/robotics are on the horizon.

Thanks for the great lecture again, Iggy.
Photos above from UPSEAA fb page.

See also:
UPSEAA lecture 1, Robina Gokongwei-Pe, July 20, 2019
UPSEAA lecture 2, DTI Sec. Mon Lopez, July 21, 2019 

UPSEAA lecture 3, Tito Ortiz, July 22, 2019 

UPSEAA lecture 4, Johanna Chua, August 4, 2019.

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