President Aquino’s call on the private sector to engage in more public- private partnership (PPP) to help improve the lives of Filipinos, gained ground with the country’s largest fastfood chain, Jollibee Foods Corp. entering into a marketing agreement with onion growers of Impasugong, Bukidnon, the first time onions are being grown in Mindanao.
Jollibee commits to buy all the big-sized onions, measuring two inches or more that it would use for the pizza production of its subsidiary, Greenwich and its other fastfood chains. The smaller onions will be sold by the farmers to wet markets in Bukidnon and the neighboring province of Cagayan de Oro.
The first onion harvest, which coincided with the World Food Day celebration in the province on Tuesday was attended by officials from the Department of Agriculture, headed by DA Undersecretary for Operations Joel Rudinas and Region 10 Director Lealyn Ramos; Gladess Bondoc and Imelda Esteban of the Kaanib Foundation Inc.(who took charge of organizing the farmers), Joseph Curry and Pedro Terry Tuazon III, country representative and manager, respectively, of the Catholic Relief Services, an NGO based in the United States; David Wolf of the US Department of Agriculture; Bukidnon Governor Alex Calingasan, Impasugong Mayor Mario Okinlay; Jollibee Foundation Executive Director Ma. Gisela Tiongson-Velasco; Gilda Maquilan of JFC for corporate communications and the participating farmers and their families.
In an open forum later, the farmers complained that because the province has very little sunlight “since our climate is just wet and very wet, we can’t produce the big-sized onions that Jollibee needs.” They asked the company if it would be amenable to buying their smaller sizes as well.
DA Secretary Proceso Alcala, in a speech read by Undersecretary Rudinas, thanked all the private participants for giving the World Food Day celebration, with the theme United Against Hunger, “a more global and multi sectoral flavor.”
“Everyone, including government, agri-fishery stakeholders, civil society groups, private organizations and global institutions must bond together to address and prevail over the challenge of ensuring food for all,” Alcala said.
The presence of hunger despite increased investments in food production, significant advances in agri-fishery technologies and lower food prices, is truly unacceptable and points to one truth: “we must do more,” Alcala said.
Projections made by the Food and Agriculture Organization showed that the world needs to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to meet increased demand of a growing population, Alcala said.
The DA’s core agenda combines the government’s social and economic objectives and makes the principles of free enterprise, poverty alleviation and social equality work in a synergistic manner, continued Alcala.
He said there are now drought-resistant and submergence-tolerant seeds of palay plus irrigation facilities that are being upgraded alongside the building of more small water impounding projects so that more water will be available during the dry season.
To protect the agriculture sector from import surges, he said, the DA is setting up trading posts or bagsakan and processing centers where farm products can be sorted and rated according to quality so that they all command better prices in the local markets.
“We consider this first onion harvest a monumental milestone in solidifying the partnerships among the DA, the private sector and other institutions and NGOs in pursuit of plucking out many of our countrymen from the clutches of poverty, of despair and of hopelessness at the soonest time possible,” Alcala added.