The Department of Agriculture (DA) has allowed the private sector to import cattle and put up the necessary dairy facilities, effectively saving the government millions and fast-tracking the implementation of its banner dairy program.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told the BusinessMirror there are now two investors that will participate in the DA’s five-year dairy program. “The entry of investors made things easier for us because we can use our money for other areas [where dairy farms can be set up]. We can consider Negros Occidental, which has a lot of forage because they have sugarcane, and maybe establish another farm in Busuanga,” Piñol said in an interview before he flew to Papua New Guinea on March 7.
For the dairy farm in Bohol, the DA is partnering with ACDI Multipurpose Cooperative (MPC), the largest cooperative in the country with an asset base of more than P18 billion, according to Piñol. The DA is targeting to turn establish Bohol as the dairy capital of the Philippines.
Under the memorandum of agreement (MOA), which is still being drafted by the DA and would be in effect for 50 years, ACDI MPC will shoulder the costs of importing at least 2,000 heads of cattle and putting up the necessary dairy facilities, which include barns and milking parlor in Ubay, Bohol.
The ACDI MPC will have the right to import its Girolando cattle from any country, as long as it passes the quarantine regulations set by the Bureau of Animal Industry.
Piñol said the DA will put up the water facilities, fences and a genetics laboratory
The construction of the genetics laboratory would be undertaken in partnership with Filipino firm GeneX Biotech Group, which specializes in in vitro fertilization and embryo- transfer technologies.
The cost of the laboratory, however, would still be determined, as they are still identifying the suitable type of facility in the area, according to GeneX Managing Director Federico Krause.
Piñol estimates that the DA will be shelling out less than P50 million for the Bohol farm.
Furthermore, under the MOA, the DA will charge a royalty fee for every liter of milk produced by ACDI MPC and would have the right of first refusal in the offsprings produced by the Bohol dairy farm.
The royalty fee, which is still being determined, will be collected by the DA and will be used to expand and finance the department’s dairy program, according to Piñol.
Importing cattle is not new to ACDI MPC, which is comprised of active and retired mem-bers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
In May 2017 ACDI imported 240 dairy cattle from Australia, of which 238 are pregnant heifers and two are pure breed jersey, as part of its major cattle-production expansion program.
The ACDI MPC established its Agribusiness Division in 2015 with a “long-term goal of becoming one of the major players in securing the food supply in the country.”
The cooperative produces vegetable and breeds poultry and cattle in its 15-hectare farm in Ibaan, Batangas.
In its original plan, the DA would shoulder the entire cost of bringing in at least 5,000 heads of Girolando cattle from Brazil and constructing the necessary dairy-farm facilities in its 3,000-hectare Ubay stock farm in Bohol.
Bukidnon dairy farm
Piñol declined to name the second investor, but said he is an Italian-Dutch businessman “who fell in love with the Philippines.” The businessman proposed to bring 600 heads of imported cattle in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
However, unlike the Bohol dairy farm, the Italian-Dutch investor would only shoulder the importation of the herd while the DA would spend for the construction of all facilities, such as barns, water facilities, fences, milking parlor and waste treatment.
The DA chief said the businessman is currently eyeing to import Holstein cattle from New Zealand for the Bukidnon dairy farm.
“If the Girolando cattle from Brazil will not be cleared by the World Organisation for Animal Health, then we are looking at bringing in Holstein, either from New Zealand or Australia. But we prefer those from New Zealand because of genetics,” Piñol said.
The DA chief said their current plan is to produce a Philippine version of Brazil’s famous Girolando cattle, a cross-breed between Holstein and Gir.
Based on the DA’s estimate, it would cost around $4.8 million, or at least P250 million, to import the cattle and set up the dairy farm in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.
The cattle that would be imported for the Bukidnon and Bohol dairy farms would be housed in barns, according to Piñol.
With the entry of private sectors, Piñol said the DA can use the funds it would save to set up dairy farms in other parts of the country. He said the DA is planning to put up one in Baguio, Negros Occidental and Busuanga in Palawan.
“Our intention here, as far as the DA is concerned, is to increase the milk production of the country. We don’t care who produces it,” Pinol said. “If we could help in achieving that, so much the better. But if there’s somebody who will invest, then that’s also good, because the good thing about this is that they are ones processing the milk, and they would market it themselves.”
The importation of cattle is part of the DA’s plan to ramp up local milk production to meet at least 10 percent of the annual domestic requirement by 2022 and reduce the country’s reliance on imports. The DA is allotting at least P1 billion for the live cattle-importation program.