NAGA CITY – To bridge the gap between the farmers, the producers, processors and consumers  and to build a simpler supply chain where everybody is happy , the Department of Agriculture launches its newest project -  ASPIRE  whichstands for Agribusiness Support for Promotion and Investment in Regional Expositions. It was designed by the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) with the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Divisions in the regions as lead orchestrator.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Assistant Secretary for Agribusiness and Marketing Engr. Leandro H. Gazmin personally led the launching of this promising project on July 11, 2017 at the SM Activity Center in this City.

Asec. Gazmin said this is the very first of its kind in the country and it will initially be piloted in five (5) regions. The other regions being CAR, regions 3, 6 and 12. During the launching, he noted the “very vibrant partnership (among the government and private sector) in Naga City. With this, DA Bicol is setting the bar higher for the other regions,” he added.

 Asec. Gazmin added that a Memorandum of Agreement for the project  between the DA, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) has already been signed signaling the convergence among the key players in agribusiness and industry.

“We want to build a simpler supply chain para madaling makabili ng raw materials ang mga processors/suppliers within an area. Dahil laging sinasabi ng processors na walang raw materials, at sabi naman ng farmers ‘walang market’. We aspire for the farmers, processors and consumers to all be happy in a healthy industry, kung saan hindi na madedehado ang farmers. We will look at Bicol’s priority commodities and strengthen value addition of  quality products.”

In an interview with the local ABS CBN channel, Gazmin said that the DA has already come up with the Registry System on Basic Sectors in Agriculture – an electronic compilation of basic information on farmers, farm laborers and fisherfolks in the country to start with the market matching.

Carolyn Castro, OIC Director of AMAS who discussed the project overview said it aims to integrate  market development services to farmers, fishers, micro small and medium enterprise (MSME);  promote regional commodities to showcase strong backward and forward linkages with farmers and fisherfolks; develop the capacities of local farmers and fisherfolks and MSMEs to optimize market opportunities; and promote/advocate investment opportunities to encourage market investments

The project ASPIRE has four driving components, namely: production support; enterprise development and industry support; investment promotion; market promotion and development.

Adelina A. Losa, chief of the AMAD Bicol said they initially selected gabi, pili, abaca and pineapple as priority commodities for ASPIRE in the region.

DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Elena B. delos Santos thanked the members of the Metro Naga City Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) for having the DA and ASPIRE as centerpiece of their monthlong celebration of Bicol Business Month. She committed to take the lead, with the support of the DTI, other agencies and the MNCI in attaining the aspirations of the ASPIRE project.

Metro Naga City Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MNCCI) President Gilbert N. Albero in his message said that collaboration and synergy is very evident in the project. In this era when collaboration is the new competition, he said farmers need three Ms – maximize potential growth and opportunities;  master  productivity and efficiency; and measure up. “In the 5th year of the ASEAN and sabi nila hindi pa handa ang Pilipinas. But “Ang laki ng itinaas ng ekonomiya ng Pilipinas for the last  10 years with sustained growth of  6% to 7%.” 

Mayor John G. Bongat on the other hand said that Naga City puts a lot of premium on the role of agriculture in the overall growth of the city and has allocated a big chunk of the city’s annual budget to agriculture. But this move will have no bandwagon effect to the communities without the inspirations being stirred by the Bicol Business Month which is on its 30th year now.  He added that the best message of the monthlong celebration is  value adding in agriculture.

As  a tangible proof of their support, members of the national and local chambers of commerce were also present: PCCI regional governor Clarine P. Tobias; PCCI Vice President for South Luzon Jeremy Lo; Camarines Sur Chambers Executive Director Rolly Salazar and President Raymond Concepcion; and Ferdinand D. Sia of MNWD, Chairman of the Bicol Business Month 2017.

Also present were  AMAD chiefs from DA regions CAR and region 3; DTI Camarines Sur provincial director Edna Tejada who read the message of DTI Regional Director Jocelyn Blanco; National Irrigation Administration (NIA) Manager Engr. Vicente Vicmudo; Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) Bicol OIC Director Vivien Carable; RAFC Bicol chair Alfredo R. Rillo; Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) Director Atty. Ma. Lourdes Pacao;   Rev. Fr. Ian Trillanes of Lupi, Camarines Sur; Municipal/City Agriculturists of Camarines Sur; DA Bicol OIC Regional Technical Director for Operations and Extension Rodel P. Tornilla;   division chiefs of the DA Bicol and members of the media.

During the trade fair, shoppers from different walks of life were awed by the different agribusiness commodities and products such as elegantly packed pili confectioneries, organic products and supplements, pineapple fiber products such as pinya cloths, handicrafts, processed marine and agricultural products, and low priced organically grown agricultural commodities and planting materials, are selling like hotcakes to.

One farmer exhibitor who brought her agricultural produce said that for a simple farmer like her to be part of the beginning of ASPIRE she considers it a big break as she was able to promote her products to a greater number of people. While some customers were happy to know some new and exciting products Bicol entrepreneurs have developed using new technologies and good agricultural practices introduced by the DA.   (Lovella P. Guarin / photos  by Eduardo Collantes, Jr. and Hermito Antonio Privaldos)