Entrep-Farmer urges Filipinos to focus on agri-business to survive the new normal, stabilize economy

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Text By Monsi A. Serrano
Photos from Unigrow Philippines

Disruption in the supply chain that affects not just the raw materials and equipment, but also the food supply would put our country in food shortage.

Around 4 decades ago, the Philippines successfully embarked on the Green Revolution, a brainchild of the late former President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

And as early as elementary school, gardening is already an integral part of the curriculum wherein children are taught to make their own “plot” which served as their own garden. Back then, the camaraderie and responsibility were already taught subconsciously because you had to work with your classmates in managing your garden. One plot had 3-4 persons managing it from tilling, planting, watering, monitoring, and harvesting. In the time of harvesting, you had to divide equally whatever you had and the excess can be given to your teachers or classmates.

However, as time goes by, and when the rapid development has overtaken the basic and practical education and practice in the school, gardening suddenly vanished in the schools. Perhaps, due to the advent of fast-food chains, instant food, and technology that made the life of others convenient.

According to Philippine Statistic Authority data last December 2019, the Philippines is now heavily relying on food imports to ensure sufficient supply and stabilize prices. This is counter to what President Duterte envisioned during one of the GMA Network sponsored Presidential Debates dubbed as PiliPinas Debates 2016.

Then Presidential candidate and now President-elect Duterte said, “When he wins, he will make the Philippines the food basket in the region just like Mindanao.”.

But with the data from PSA, our Food Balance Sheets (FBS) for 2016-2018 showed that the import dependency ratio (IDR) for food has risen steadily to 29.16 percent in 2018 from 22.67 percent in 2017 and 22.51 percent in 2016.

Given this trend and if it continues, the Philippines is at risk of food shortage not apart from the fact that we have already a problem in the supply chain, the critical part is our self-sufficient production.

Four years ago, I wrote my piece on how Thailand, like Vietnam, has overtaken us in terms of agricultural production given the fact that these countries learned agriculture from the Filipinos and in the Philippines.

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Moving forward, THEPHILBIZNEWS was fortunate to interview the farmer-entrepreneur Jim Vistar, who is the exclusive distributor of https://web.facebook.com/unigrow.phil/, soil conditioner that helped a lot of farmers across the country.

Speaking to THEPHILBIZNEWS, Mr. Vistar, Founder and Presiden of JCV Worldwide Traders answered the following questions:

What led you to decide to venture into agri-business?

Farmers assisted by Unigrow Philippines in supporting their demo farms using Unigrow organic fertilizer

Our love and passion to help our farmers fuelled us to venture into agriculture. And we strongly believe that Agriculture is the backbone of a nation’s economy, it will always be the very source of our basic needs: food, clothing, and shelter. Agri-Business is the only business that never closes and never stops. And this COVID19 crisis now is a living proof to that.

From left, Edna Arnado, Vice President for-Sales and Marketing of Unigrow Philippines, and Jimmy Vistar, President, JCV Worldwide Traders Corp., the exclusive distributor of Unigrow Biotech in the Philippines photo taken during the Catholic Mass Media Award

Was it an easy journey for you?

It was never an easy journey for us because we have to prove a lot. Farmers are like old dogs, hard to teach new tricks. They don’t easily give in to new farming technologies that’s why it’s not an easy task for us to promote our Bio-Technology product which is Unigrow Soil Conditioner. We have to go around the country and make demo farms so we can show them that the product really works. It’s a simple principle of Unigeow Philippines which we call STD, not the STD disease, but the SHOW, TEACH and DO principle of training our farmers.

A farmer, brandishing how Unigrow helped them in their harvest at their demo farm

What is really amazing is how they suddenly find farming as exciting, fun, and easy with the new ways we do it. This is a big opportunity for them to eventually export their products. The secret is consistency and dedication. Just like the farmers in Japan, they are very passionate, and that makes them very successful. Hence, this is very promising to the next generation farmers, that farming is a smart move because you get to eat free and healthy and at the same time help the community in their nourishment and earn literally from your sweat and blood. But with Unigrow biotech, it would be no sweat and not bloody too.

One of the satisfied farmers of Unigrow, Merlita Abalos, an eggplant grower.fromThe Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija Ms Merlita Abalos. She never uses pesticides and chemical fertilizer anymore after using Unigrow

What are the challenges you faced along the way and how did you deal with these challenges and win over them?

We are promoting organic farming. So when we say organic, it means no more chemical fertilizers or other chemical drugs. Our product is purely organic and that we will guarantee all our consumers. It is a Bacteria in powder form, it gets activated when mixed with chlorine-free water. Of course, we couldn’t just market it that way so easily. We have to register the product with Fertilizer and Pesticides Authority (FPA), under the Department of Agriculture (DA). They made us submit our product to BIOTECH in UP Los Baños for laboratory tests. We were also asked to test our product with different crops which are supervised by their own accredited researchers. And Praise God, we passed all the tests and finally got our Certificate of Product Registration after nearly 6 years of waiting. Indeed patience pay. After all, you cannot hatch an egg by hammering it right?

From left, Unigrower farmer Leo Romualdo of Bgy Marcos Village, Palayan City did not expect that after being given free Unigeow and used it, his yield increased by 200 bags and the sizes of his red onions nearly doubled, (right) By their roots, you will know it’s from Unigrow

What do your message to our young generations?

The average age of our farmers today is between 50-70 years old and they are not getting any younger. It is a challenge now for everyone as to how we can encourage our young generation to go into farming. How we can make them fall in love with farming. And how the tilling of the farms would sound cool to them, and that indeed is a daunting task which we hope with this crisis right now, our young people will realize that.

Farmer’s festival in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija

What’s your message to the Filipino people?

We have an enemy now, an unseen one and we need to fight it all together. But as we fight them, we cannot depend on our limited capacity. Hence, prayers must have a place in our lives, not only now but always. We really need to keep on praying that all these trails that come our way, that affects the whole world will pass soon. And while we wait for that time for the pandemic to end, let’s ask the Lord to open our hearts and mind and listen to what He wants us to learn from these trying times. The time to be with our families now and away from the pressures of the material world is the most priceless and humbling experience that we all should be very thankful for right now. Help those who are in need and share our 3 Ts, the time, talent and treasure no matter how little they may seem to be.

Unigrow Philippines Feeding Program

My personal reflection in what we are all experiencing now, I take it as a way of God showing His divine affection and He wants us to call our attention. It is like “naglalambing lang si Lord sa atin ngayon kasi we have all been so busy in our daily lives and activities and He probably misses us so much that he wants us to focus on Him muna”.

My personal reflection:
“Do not look for the meaning in what you are doing, instead, giving meaning to what you are doing and this will make your life meaningful because whatever we sow, we shall reap. And whether we like it or not, there will come a time, that our Sower will also call us back to His home, and enjoy the bountiful harvest He painstakingly planted and grew,” the Founder of JCV Worldwide Traders

To many Filipino, Unigrow Philippines would not ring a bell yet, but their advocacy redounds and echoes across the country as many have embraced the Unigrow Philippines’ noble missions such as to help the Filipino farmers to need to be efficient, fully utilize their hard-earned money invested in farming, and help them maximize their profit with simple biotechnology brought by Unigrow which is dubbed by many farmers, as “miracle powder” that make their harvest unexpectedly abundant.

An abundant harvest of Siling Pangsigang from a farm that was nearly abandoned because of the damage brought about by infestation but rehabilitated by Unigrow Philippines by using Unigrow.

In closing, the humble farmer-entrepreneur said, “Farming does not begin by tilling a vast land. You can start right in your own home or at your own backyard, wherein you can start to grow your own food. It’s a journey worth taking because as you go along, you will realize that even you are just “farming” using your pots or plastic containers, or any land space where you can plant something, you are already enjoying every process of it.

“This is what we have been doing, teaching our Filipino compatriot to explore farming. You need not have to be a haciendero or haciendera to start farming,” Vistar added.

Unigrow Philippines’ Executives during the meeting with Mekeni Food Corp. executives at their Plant in Balubad, Porac, Pampanga. Mekeni who has been doing backyard farming in their 25 hectares plant sees the difference that Unigrow did to their harvest

“Just start it, then you will really find the simple joy, pleasure, and fulfillment in what you are doing. Just remember, do not look for the meaning in what you are doing, instead, giving meaning to what you are doing and this will make your life meaningful because whatever we sow, we shall reap. And whether we like it or not, there will come a time, that our Sower will also call us back to His home, and enjoy the bountiful harvest He painstakingly planted and grew,” the Founder of JCV Worldwide Traders concluded.