MANILA, January 13, 2005 (STAR) By Rocel C. Felix  -  The country’s fledgling local organic farming industry is making a big pitch to penetrate the growing global market for organically-grown agricultural produce with the recent accreditation of the private-sector led Organic Certification Center of the Philippines (OCCP) as the official agency that will certify organic products. The Department of Agriculture (DA) has conferred the accreditation certificate to the OCCP, making it the first and only organic product certifier. Having the OCCP seal is required in tapping potential markets for organic products.

OCCP, an independent private membership-based organic standards setting and organic certification body was established in 2001 to ensure the relevance of organic standards and the integrity of the certification process. "A seal from OCCP assures consumers of safe and quality products based on a set of organic standards and certification procedures," said Lani Limpin, OCCP board secretary. Limpin said the OCCP is currently negotiating with six foreign counterparts as part of efforts to boost the country’s image as reliable producer and supplier of organically-grown agricultural products. The country’s organically produced agricultural products are already gaining acceptance abroad with exports to Europe, Japan, US and Canada of muscovado sugar, fresh banana, banana chips, desiccated coconut , coconut oil among others.

Among the OCCP certified farms are Everich Farms, which grows chicken, based in Ilocos Norte; Altermed Corp. located in Bataan, Bulacan and Nueva Ecija that produces herbals, rice and vegetables; Kablon Farms in Pangasinan and Mosser Farms in Negros Occidental both involved in vegetable production and the Bote Cental and Leoni Agri Corp. both located in Bulacan that produce organic vinegar. In the Philippines, the organic market, still in its infancy stage is estimated at P250 million. Production is still very limited, and with demand growing at fast clip of 20 percent annually, there is a clear market for organic chemical-free and pesticide-free products. However, there is a general lack of awareness and limited distribution of organic products and local producers have so far, just been focusing on niche markets – comprising mostly of successful, well-traveled Filipinos and the expatriate community who want to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

In recent years, however, more and more local consumers are catching up due to food safety concerns and for therapeutic reasons. While no official data exists, it is estimated that less than one percent of total Philippine agriculture practice organic farming. Currently, organically-grown organic products are marketed mainly in weekend organic markets, direct selling and to a lesser extent, in independent organic stores and mainstream supermarkets. The Organic Producers Traders Association (OPTA), which started with 11 incorporators in 1995 and grew to its current roster of 183 members, is largely responsible for the promotion of organic farming in the country.

Waiting list NOT BUSINESS AS USUAL By Margaret Jao-Grey The Philippine Star 01/13/2005

There’s talk the board of ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. chaired by Eugenio Lopez III has approved a massive reorganization program that will affect everybody from senior management down to rank-and-file, from Channel 2 to its subsidiaries.

Gabby Lopez is said to be hell-bent on making the company more efficient and, in the process, more profitable. The buzz word here is profitable. That means individuals who do not contribute to the bottom line and programs/companies which do not make money will be shown the door.

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Perhaps, Megaworld Corp. chairman Andrew Tan is unaware that several restaurants in Eastwood have already shut down – and many more will close in the coming months. Here’s why. When they signed the lease, restaurant-tenants were unaware that Megaworld was putting up a mall, which effectively made the location of the stand-alone restaurants the "back" instead of the "front" of pedestrian traffic. Oh yes, the huge parking lot that was one of Megaworld’s come-ons for restaurants catering to the mid- to up-markets is no longer there. Construction has finally started on a mixed-used condominium, which started pre-selling as early as two years ago. As everybody knows, Megaworld is the 2004 Agora corporate awardee of the Philippine Marketing Association headed by Jos Ortega.

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Did you know 1: Equity Partners headed by Francis Estrada has teamed up with the Development Bank of the Philippines and Security Bank Corp. to form a special purpose vehicle called Odyssey Capital. Basically, the SPV will bid for the non-performing loans and (if you add acquired and foreclosed real estate) non-performing assets of financial institutions. Not many realize that getting rid of NPLs and NPAs has a developmental aspect. You see, the more NPLs and NPAs a bank has, the less money it has or is inclined to lend to companies which generate employment.

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Did you know 2: There’s some jockeying going on as to which company will be the first to launch its initial public offering for the year. Slated for March are the IPOs of at least two companies. These are Manila Water Co., a member of the Ayala Group which is headed by Tony Aquino; and GMA Network (Channel 7), which is headed by Felipe Gozon. A good showing by the first IPO will definitely boost the chances of other IPOs scheduled this year.

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Did you know 3: Since last month, Palawan Organic Farm owner Tony de Castro has been so swamped with orders for his P2,200-earthworm starting kit that he actually has a waiting list of customers from all over the country. Mr. Castro sells African nightcrawlers, which can, at the very least, reduce the daily garbage of a household by 60 percent and, at most, be a lucrative business in terms making money out of selling the resulting fertilizer or selling earthworms as fish food. Oh yes, Palawan Organic Farms was recently granted a P300,000 grant by Ford Motor Phils. to set up demonstrations projects in two households and two barangays, and in a public park for possible replication nationwide.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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