Filipinos, apparently, are a carnivorous lot, consuming less than half the amount of vegetables that the Vietnamese eat—an issue that East-West Seed, one of the world’s 10 largest seed companies, plans to address head-on by motivating more people to grow vegetables, be it in a large farm or in their own homes.
As part of its 35th anniversary this year, East-West recently launched Go Grow, vegetable seed packets that come with a handy guide to help first-time and amateur vegetable farmers get into the habit of growing their own crops.
“We launched Go Grow because we wanted to express our commitment to serve our farmers better. We want to contribute to their success in vegetable farming,” said Bonifacio Sauli, East-West Seed product manager. “Go Grow is also for people who have no experience in farming. Or if you’re a corn farmer, for example, but would like to explore vegetable crops, this product is also for you. It will enrich your knowledge on vegetable farming.”
To simplify Go Grow’s selection, Sauli said the company chose seeds that would yield vegetables that have high selling potential in the market, such as tomato, eggplant, hot peppers and ampalaya.
Sauli also explained how each packet comes with a card that has specific cultivation instructions to aid first-timers and amateurs, as well as a planting calendar to guide farmers from the seed-sowing stage until harvest season.
Smartphones are also an important tool in Go Grow’s planting process, as each packet has a QR code which, when scanned, links one to an online service called Plant Doctor that helps in managing pest and disease problems.
East-West Seed introduced market-oriented plant breeding in Southeast Asia in 1982, with the mission to improve the income of farmers through high-quality vegetable seeds.
Smallholder farmers are the company’s main clients.
The company is also actively involved in farmer training to increase their knowledge and skills in profitable vegetable production.
Last year, East-West Seed was ranked No. 1 in two indices under the Access to Seeds Index: The Global Index for Vegetable Seed Companies and Regional Index for Eastern Africa.
An independent organization funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Access to Seeds Index measures the efforts of the world’s leading seed companies to enhance the productivity of smallholder farmers.
Mary Ann Sayoc, East-West Seed Philippines’ former general manager who was recently appointed public affairs lead for the global East-West Seed Group, said that with the launch of Go Grow, the company hopes to increase the country’s number of vegetable farmers by changing the perception that agriculture isn’t a lucrative industry, especially among the youth.
“There is a lot of potential in the Philippine vegetable sector,” she said.
“The country’s annual growth rate for vegetable production is close to 2 percent—not enough to meet even the local demand for vegetables. That is why we still need to import more than $3 million worth of vegetables, which could ideally be supplied by local farmers,” she added.
Sayoc also lamented the fact that Filipinos consume the least amount of vegetables in Southeast Asia—another issue which East-West Seed hopes to solve through Go Grow.
Citing research data from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), Sayoc said Filipinos eat only 44 kilograms of vegetables per year—significantly lower than the World Health Organization-recommended amount of 73 kg.
“The Philippines consumes less than half the amount of vegetables that Vietnam does. Over 30 percent of the Philippine population is overweight and malnourished. Therefore, an increase in the availability, affordability and consumption of nutrient-dense vegetables is one way to combat malnutrition,” said Sayoc.
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