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Farmers to produce Bt corn seeds

February 10, 2011

By ZAC B. SARIAN

February 5, 2011, 2:29am

MANILA, Philippines – Some 1,600 farmers in Pangasinan and nearby provinces will enjoy a new source of livelihood, thanks to the newly inaugurated Bt corn seed processing plant put up by Syngenta in Brgy. Sumabnit, Binalonan, Pangasinan.

The state-of-the-art processing facility will process mainly Bt corn seeds for planting. Bt corn is increasingly becoming a favorite of local farmers, especially in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and in different parts of Mindanao. That’s because this biotech crop can protect itself from corn borer, one of the most destructive pests of corn.

The farmers have been contracted by Syngenta to produce the seed corn in their own farms but with the proper guidance of the multinational company’s technicians. Syngenta will advance the seeds for planting as well as other necessary inputs such as fertilizers and crop protection chemicals. The farmer will only answer for land preparation.

The inputs that are advanced will be paid for by the farmers to be deducted from the sale of the corn cobs that will be bought by Syngenta. The farmers have been assured of a buying price of R18 per kilo of freshly harvested corn-on-the cob.

The newly harvested corn ears are husked and then brought to the processing plant where they will undergo several processes of shelling, drying, treating with fungicide to protect viability, quality control tests and packaging.

Since Bt corn was approved for commercial production in 2005, an increasing number of farmers have shifted to this crop. The corn ears are big and uniform and they are also undamaged by pests.

The new processing plant will be able to supply all the seed requirements of the increasing number of Bt corn growers in the country. Syngenta is also eyeing other countries which will eventually approve the planting of Bt corn. One prospective country that is fast-tracking its evaluation of the new technology is Vietnam. Another is Indonesia.

The BT corn processing plant is not only expected to boost corn production in the Philippines, it could at the same time save precious dollars since the seeds currently grown locally are imported at around $2.20 per kilo.

Corn production is very important in the Philippines because corn is the main ingredient for livestock and poultry feeds. The Philippines imports a lot of corn to fill up the shortage of local production.

Many swine and poultry producers are affected by the lack of corn supply. The high cost is often the cause of losses in poultry and piggery projects.

Corn prices in the world market are rising because the grains are being used in alternative uses such as biofuel.

One reason why the processing plant was establihed in Pangasinan is that the province is centrally located and is a major corn producer itself. No less than 4,000 hectares are planted to corn every year in the province.

By the way, the officials of Syngenta (both local and foreign-based) were joined during the launching by local officials, scientists, businessmen and farmers. They numbered about 200 from different parts of the country.

http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/302583/farmers-produce-bt-corn-seeds

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