Organic farmers push for certification center in Mindanao

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 15 Nov) – Organic farming practitioners in Region 12 are pushing for the establishment of an organic agriculture certification center in Mindanao as they move for its development as the region’s next flagship industry.

Alfredo Hebrona Jr., chair of the Region 12 Agriculture and Fishery Council’s organic agriculture sector, said Tuesday they have linked up with the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the accreditation of a third-party certification center or body for organic farms in the area.

He said organic farmers and producers in the region are currently facing difficulty in getting certification due to the absence of a center in Mindanao.

Such situation has affected the expansion of organic farms in parts of Region 12 and the neighboring areas.

“Region 12 has a big potential of being known further as an organic producing region but we need to have a certifier in the area to achieve that,” he said in a press conference at the sidelines of the 3rd Regional Organic Agriculture Congress in Koronadal City.

Citing provisions of Republic Act 10068 or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, a certification center should be established for Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

But he said only two organic certifiers are currently existing, one each in Luzon and the Visayas. 

He was referring to the Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP) based in Diliman, Quezon City and the Negros Island Organic Certification Services (NICERT) in Bacolod City.

OCCP has established a satellite office in Davao City but the processing of organic certification are conducted at its main office.

“It’s too costly right now for organic farmers and producers in Region 12 to get a certification,” Hebrona said.

Romano Laurilla, chair of the newly-organized Region 12 Organic Agriculture Council, said the cost of getting certification for groups or clustered farms could go as high as P350,00 and should be renewed every year.

He said the charges for individual applicants vary according to hectarage or expanse of the organic farm.

Before getting a certification, he said organic farms need to invest for the establishment of an internal control system and other required facilities.

Hebrona said several groups based in Mindanao have signified interest to put up an organic certification center for the area but were hampered by its prohibitive investment.

He said that aside from the development of the facility, specifically the construction of buildings and installation of the needed equipment, potential certifiers are now required to get an ISO or International Organization for Standardization certification.

Processing an ISO certification could cost no less than P1 million, he said.

Owing to this, Hebrona said they have asked the DA central office to waive such requirement for at least two years for interested certifiers in Mindanao.

“OCCP and NICERT were not required to have this (ISO certification) when they started their operations so we’re also seeking for the same treatment,” he said.

Hebrona said they are planning to elevate the matter to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.

“That is one of the major concerns being tackled in the congress and we’re hoping that Secretary Piñol can help us on this,” he added. (MindaNews)