REPRESENTATIVE Geraldine B. Roman of Bataan’s First District has filed a bill seeking to organize farmers’ associations in “clusters” to encourage the pooling of resources that will reduce production costs and enable direct marketing, leading to potentially higher farm incomes.

House Bill (HB) No. 6761 which if passed will become known as the Bataan Farmer Coopetition Act, encourages farmer associations to engage in “cooperative competition” to help them achieve scale and capture more of the value-added from their produce.

The so-called “coopetition” hubs provide a venue for produce sourcing by major buyers like the government and the retailers, cutting out the middleman.

The hubs open up the possibility of direct marketing for rice and related products to retailers and consumers; manufacturing of rice products by farmers; and shared rice processing and storage facilities.

“We are an agricultural country with a population of over 100 million of which about 10 million — or 24% of the total national employment — are rice farmers. Sadly, over 34% of our rice farmers are poor. They struggle to make less than P200 a day,” Ms. Roman said.

She said HB 6761 will require cooperation among associations in managing multi-purpose hubs suitably equipped to help farmers capture more value from their harvest.

“At present, the government extends farming assistance such as machinery, loans, and training through competing farmer organizations, but farmlands are underutilized because not every farmer organization receives government farming assistance,” Ms. Roman said.

Ms. Roman said the bill will make possible the wider availability of pooled farming resources, increase utilization of farmland, expand rice production, lower dependence on rice imports, and help achieve food security.

On June 4, the Department of Agriculture said it will offer incentives and assistance programs to farmers consolidating their farms in order to increase their harvest and lower costs.

“Farmer organizations should undertake marketing functions in order to minimize inefficiencies in the marketing system and to enable farmers to avail of better returns from their produce,” Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said.

Ms. Roman added that Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Israel, and Vietnam have adopted such practices successfully. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave