DA prepares smallholder groups for 3rd party organic certification

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by Sheila Mae Toreno

ILOILO CITY – Organic smallholder farmers from Panay Island undergo a two-day training on how to install an Internal Quality Control System (IQCS) as a necessary tool for the third-party certification.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Western Visayas Organic Agriculture Program (OAP) equipped 30 members of the different organic farmers’ associations from the provinces of Antique, Aklan, Capiz, and Iloilo at Harbon Town Hotel, Iloilo City, from Aug. 14. to Aug. 15.

According to agriculturist Renan Palomo, they aim to train organic farmers and adopters in Region 6 on how to install IQCS as a necessary tool for the group certification on organic agriculture.

Rommel Solidum of the Organic Farming Development and Promotions Division of Negros Occidental provincial government said that IQCS must be installed to guarantee those individual farmers applying for group certification comply with the provisions set under the Philippine National Standard.

“A group of farmers cannot be certified if there is no installed IQCS,” stressed Solidum.

Using IQCS, farmers and inspectors can easily track and store the list of registered organic growers, production status, contract, annual inspection of farm production, storage and facilities, guidelines on internal regulations as well as the documentation of farm activities of members.

“We need to obtain organic agriculture certification because it is a marketing tool so we can set a premium price for our organic products,” Solidum said.

The installation of IQCS to smallholder groups seeks to align production to local and international standards, to provide additional income through premium price for certified organic products, to make certification affordable, to bind growers into a marketing group and to improve the information system as a whole.

Solidum mentioned that in Negros Occidental, they cannot satisfy the market requirement for organic products. Thus, they created a partnership between Negros Island Organic Farmers Association (NIOFA) and a family farm processor that enabled a viable and sustainable production and marketing of organic products.

He urged farmers to continue adopting organic farming practices and get their farms certified. “Organic products demand premium price and a niche market opportunity,” he furthered.