ASEAN integration seen to boost markets for PH organic produce

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/02 October) — Prospects appear bright for the country’s organically-grown products with the integration by next year of the 10 member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Leo Cañeda, coordinator of the Department of Agriculture (DA)-led National Organic Agriculture Board, said producers of organic farm products could tap key cities or areas within ASEAN as primary target for market expansion when the region’s economic integration eventually rolls out.

He said products like organic high-value vegetables and rice produced in Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region could take the lead in the export expansion.

The region comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

“There’s so much opportunities and advantages for our organic farmers in the ASEAN economic integration,” he said at the opening of the four-day 1st Soccsksargen Region Organic Agriculture Congress and Trade Fair here on Wednesday.

But Cañeda said organic farmers or producers should be prepared and equipped with the proper skills and knowledge so they can properly market their products in the ASEAN.

He specifically cited the proper quality standards and other related requirements for organic export products.

ASEAN created a special task force last year to lead the development and promotion of the region’s standards on organic agriculture.

The task force is specifically working on the crafting of a common standard agreeable to and recognized by the ASEAN member-states to facilitate the trading of organic products in the region.

Region 12 has around 50 hectares of palay areas that are mainly producing organic premium rice varieties for exports.

Last year, the area’s organic rice producers have started exporting black rice and other colored, long grained and aromatic rice varieties to the Middle East and Singapore.

DA Region 12 is currently working for the entry of locally-produced premium rice to major markets in Russia, Italy, United States and other parts of the Middle East. (MindaNews)