Report: Regional Business Partnerships among Farmers, Food Processors, SME and Research Institutes Study Mission, February 24-28, 2014, Japan

Participants during visit to Kanagawa Tea Farming Center in Tokyo

Participants during visit to Kanagawa Tea Farming Center in Tokyo

BACKGROUND

The multicountry observational study mission presented the successful approaches in Japan in promoting the local agrifood industry and the important elements for developing and strengthening business partnerships among farmers, agri-food processing enterprises and research institutions. The study mission is a strategy to showcase the effective models in Japan that can help confront the pervasive minimal economic activities in rural areas in developing countries.

The presentations, field trips and discussions manifested the expressed strengths of the approaches including among others, the development of partnerships, networks, and various forms of collaboration among the stakeholders and key players in various industry groupings that increase value added in products and services. The role of universities and research institutions and their inputs in crop production and technologies in food processing as these create positive impacts on the models were also part of the observational study mission.

The study mission’s tangible outcomes were presented as action plans for the application of the relevant knowledge and best practices learned. The anticipated intangible outcomes are knowledge and skills, understanding regional business partnership, networking and exposure to the culture and people in Japan.

OBJECTIVES FOR PARTICIPATION

The observational study mission presents learning opportunities that will help improve my perspective on the approaches to promote the development of local agrifood industry at work. As in charge of agricultural production and marketing aspects of organic food in my organization, the project will help me broaden my perspective. New revelations on the factors that should be taken into consideration to create significant impacts on the economic activities within our community are among the insights. Learning on developing and strengthening business partnerships among the food stakeholders in rural areas, small scale but efficient processing that can add value can be readily applied in our community.

The roles of producers association to help improve the productivity and income levels of farmers as well as build networks for marketing produce are important inputs. The role of government in mentoring and building the capability of young people to become farmers present innovative ways to encourage the growth of new generations of farmers. These revelations are important inputs in our advocacy to promote agri-preneurship in the Philippines so that future farm entrepreneurs are present to help provide quality food and food security to the population.

The project can also help me develop strategies and action plans to apply similar approaches in the Philippines. I expected that the speakers will provide an integrated view that can serve as guide. The project will broaden my perspective in developing strategies and action plans for our local situation and will also allow me to have a better perception to come up with a positive approach to providing guidance to the attainment of the aspirations of our trainees and students to become catalysts in economic development in their own communities in the provinces. As a teacher-mentor of students, would like to gain the broader international perspective in food and agricultural business approaches.

OBJECTIVES FOR PARTICIPATION

The observational study mission presents learning opportunities that will help improve my perspective on the approaches to promote the development of local agrifood industry at work. As in charge of agricultural production and marketing aspects of organic food in my organization, the project will help me broaden my perspective. New revelations on the factors that should be taken into consideration to create significant impacts on the economic activities within our community are among the insights. Learning on developing and strengthening business partnerships among the food stakeholders in rural areas, small scale but efficient processing that can add value can be readily applied in our community. The roles of producers association to help improve the productivity and income levels of farmers as well as build networks for marketing produce are important inputs. The role of government in mentoring and building the capability of young people to become farmers present innovative ways to encourage the growth of new generations of farmers. These revelations are important inputs in our advocacy to promote agripreneurship in the Philippines so that future farm entreprenuers are present to help provide quality food and food security to our population.

The project can also help me develop strategies and action plans to apply similar approaches in the Philippines. I expected that the speakers will provide an integrated view that can serve as guide.

The project will broaden my perspective in developing strategies and action plans for our local situation and will also allow me to have a better perception to come up with a positive approach to providing guidance to the attainment of the aspirations of our trainees and students to become catalysts in economic development in their own communities in the provinces. As a teacher-mentor of students, would like to gain the broader international perspective in food and agricultural business approaches.

PROFILE OF PARTICIPANTS

Eighteen participants from twelve countries attended the observational study tour. Nine are government officers in the Ministry of Industry, AgriculturaL Extension, Higher Education Commission and Productivity Commission. There were six representatives from universities, scholls and research institutions. Others are from a development bank and food service sector. I was only representative from the Philippines. I belong in the education and training sector and our particular focus is developing skills, knowledge and attitude for entrepreneurship in agriculture. Offering an innovative approach to entrepreneurship in agriculture, our approach includes educating the dependents of agrarian reform beneficiaries to become entrepreneurs so they can make their land productive and viable through sustainable agriculture and value addition.

SCOPE, CONTENT, METHODOLOGY

Lectures

The study mission consists of 10 presentations by resource speakers, group exercises and presentations, field visits and evaluation of the program by the participants.

The presentation of the Asian Productivity Organization, highlighted its role and importance to its members through its mission and vision, strategic directions and projects.

The presentation on the shift to sixth-order industry and value as a new development in food industry cluster by Prof. Osamu Saito of Chiba University listed the four innovations from the perspective of the food system and agriculture economy. These are integration of processes from product to sales (first innovation), innovation through linking different management resources (second innovation), establishment of value chain up to consumers while deepening relationships among producers and efficiency (third innovation) and innovation of community leading to utilization of community resources and expansion of income, creation of values using community knowledge (fourth innovation).

The presentation on how the sixth sector revitalizers  rural communities by Yoichiro Otsuka, food and agriculture coordinator and general manager of the Agriculture, Commerce and Industry Collaboration Support Center (NPO) highlighted the collaboration of the agriculture, commerce and industry frameworks to strengthen urban and rural exchanges. His point on developing the demand for new processed agricultural products with new sales methods including internet-based marketing and improvement of production were very well presented.

The management system of Wagoen was both part of the presentation as well as the field trip. As a farmers’ cooperative with an integrated operation of production, recycling, food processing, and retail, it is a successful model. Wagoen also converges science, good agricultural practices, management standards, as well as local and international business.

Site Visit

The visit and presentation on Sanbu was also an enriching experience. The group of organic farmers for 20 years operates as a corporate entity with farming  practices using technology, farm planning and monitoring. There are many features of its best practices that can be replicated in developing countries. Among the best practices are the establishment of face-to-face relationships between consumers and farmers, cropping plan integration, traceability, nutrient management and crop protection.

The tour to Chiba University and the Japan Plant Factory Association showed the successes in research in horticulture as well as the continuing research to enable household s to produce their own vegetables indoors throughout the year including those living in urban areas where living space is limited. The researches show the dedication to ensure access to healthy food as well as sustained food security.

The visit to the Kanagawa Tea Farming Center, the producer of the Ashigara tea highlighted the tea culture of Japan. Also, it was a revelation for the participants that tea can be grown adjacent to rice production areas.

Country Paper

For the Philippine country paper, I presented the One Town One Product (OTOP) program. This is parallel to the support  and attention that the local governments of Japan provide the farmers. The OTOP in the Philippines however, is primarily a small enterprise that should be capable of creating and developing its market, have innovative marketing strategies and ensure the quality and sustainability of production. The successful projects inJapan have been able to expand in other countries because of well defined systems. The existing enterprises in the Philippines presented in the paper have just passed the start-up phase and need to be strengthened in terms of production and marketing systems. The country paper on Thailand also presented similar concept on One Tablon (district) One Product program.

OUTCOMES AND EVALUATION

The experience exceeded my expectations. The knowledge shared by the resource speakers and the people assigned to orient the participants during the field visits were based on experiences and researches as they are practitioners and willing to share. The many approaches of the farmers’ associations, universities, research institutions and the government in addressing the needs for consumers as well as the farm producers presented opportunities for learning, innovation and replication in the local situation in the Philippines. The introduction on the sixth sector concept is an encouragement to learn more about the system and how it can be applied in the Philippines. Food processing at the farm of farmers’ association level is an important learning in the mission. The biological nature and the need to add value to agricultural produce make it necessary to set up a system to meet the quality standard. Have some form of processing of produce in the list of knowledge and skills that farm producers must appreciate and possess. Hence, these are important inputs that should be considered, studied and applied in our effort to promote opportunities, enterprises and livelihood in rural areas.

RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION STEPS

One of the general recommendations was for participants to appraise their respective local stakeholders, the farmers small and medium entrepreneurs, researchers and teachers about the good practices observed in Japan and those shared by representatives from other countries. To attain this, meetings will be set with farmers’ group and entrepreneurs, including establishment of producers and processors’ cooperatives and societies. Also, meeting with government credit institutions are planned to generate financial support to farmers and SMEs.

The general recommendations also  include addressing the need to entice the youth to become farmers because the farmers’ average age for all the countries represented is high.

There is a need to disseminate the opportunities in food processing as enterprises or businesses through seminars, workshops and trainings in collaboration with universities and research institutes in similar endeavors. Research and  industry linkages can be encouraged for developing the local food processing sector.

Technical support to farmers will include the organic farming practices in physical pest control, product quality improvement and use of information technology.

In terms production, organic production provided clear learning and approaches by farmers’ groups. The practices that can be applied by the participants include recycling of agricultural waste for compost making and bio gas. The integration of cropping plan was also identified as important learning that can be used in other countries. For inorganic farming, high standards for safety and quality is recommended, in the same manners as producers in Japan are diligent in monitoring the quality of the soil, water and produce. Marketing directly to consumers in venues like the food service was also a learning that was recommended for replication.

For financial support to production, the general aspiration and recommendation for funding is from government support as well as loans to producers and small scale processing. Incentives to farmers in the form of affordable credit facilities, grants, subsidies, and training so that they may understand cooperative farming and its benefits and how the farmers can increase household incomes.

For legislation, the general recommendation is for countries to have the national standards for farming as well as for organic agriculture. Certification is also recommended for those who aim at exporting their produce.

Discussions with policy makers to make them aware of the needs of farmers, small and medium enterprise entrepreneurs, researchers, teachers and extension workers were also included in the action plan of participants.

For the Philippine setting, my recommendation on potential activities in my organization includes the development of the sixth sector cluster to emphasize the importance of marketing to guide the production side agriculture.

Agriculture and small and medium enterprises present opportunities for creating livelihood in rural areas. Hence, the government should encourage and support food processing at the farm or community level to increase household incomes and cushion the adverse impacts of the seasonal over supply of perishable fresh agricultural produce on farmers’ incomes. The processed food and fruit juice technologies should be taught to the rural producers. The entrepreneurial and innovative mindset should be developed among farmers, women and the youth in rural areas.

SUBMITTED BY:

RITA MACABUHAY
Manager, Business Development for MFI Farm Business Institute
and Head, Farm Laboratory Operation
MFI Foundation, Inc.

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