BUTUAN CITY, Nov. 27 -- Organic agriculture in Caraga Region is now gaining ground with the support of the Department of Agriculture (DA).
According to Cindy Burdeos, Organic Agriculture (OA) Program focal person, the number of farmers adopting and practicing an organic way of farming is on an increasing trend.
"As of the latest monitoring, we have recorded in Caraga Region around 13,000 hectares of organic farms with 6,000 organic farmer practitioners," she revealed.
She added that two products were already 3rd party organic certified in the region, the organic fertilizer of Caraga Agricultural Business Corporation of Pianing, Butuan City, and organic rice produced by CRV Rice Mill of Alegria, Surigao del Norte.
Both are duly certified by a 3rd party certifying body the Negros Island Certification Services (NICERT).
So far in the Philippines, there are only two certifying bodies, the NICERT based in the Visayas and the Luzon-based Organic Certifying Center of the Philippines (OCCP).
On the other hand, a private firm, Celebes Corporation is an internationally certified, producing coco and banana based-products exported to the United States and Europe.
A certification is a guarantee that the product is carefully monitored and inspected to assure that the farming processes of such grower conform within Philippine National Standards for Organic Crops.
Burdeos said that there are three levels of organic certification in the country, the first, the second, and the third-party certification.
"The first party means the producer claims that his or her product is organic while the second party means somebody would stand or witness as the product is organic in support to the claim of the producer, while the third party refers to somebody or agency that will confirm the product as organic after a thorough assessment based on the standards set," she explained.
However, there is an ongoing move to amend the Republic Act 10068 to allow the localization of the certification through the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS).
Under PGS, a reputable institution or group advocating organic agriculture can certify the product as organic to hasten the certification process and lessen the costs.
As of now, only third party certified products are allowed to label as organic.
Aside from technical and production support, DA-Caraga also helps the organic producers market their products through the Organic Agriculture Trading Post (OATP) situated in different parts of the region.
To bolster DA'S campaign for organic agriculture, every November of the year is observed as an Organic Agriculture Month under Proclamation No. 1030 signed on May 21, 2015, by then President Benigno Aquino III.
According to the proclamation, the practice of organic agriculture, as a farming system, is an effective tool for development, environmental conservation, and health protection of farmers, consumers, and the general public.
This year's theme, "Sa Pagsasakang Organiko, Ani at Kita ay Sigurado, Kalusugan ay Garantisado." (Aurelius P. Arais, DA Caraga/PIA-Caraga)