Vitarich CEO Rocco Sarmiento joins panel discussion on agriculture and food security
December 1, 2022– Vitarich Corporation (PSE: VITA) President and CEO Rocco Sarmiento participated in a panel discussion at the economic forum presented by BusinessWorld on November 29, 2022 at the Grand Hyatt Manila. The panel focused on the state of agriculture and how the country can work towards ensuring food security.
The role of agriculture in inclusive growth and food security
Mr. Sarmiento highlighted the potential of agriculture in reducing poverty, and he expressed support for the cooperation of the private sector and the government to strengthen the country’s food system resilience.
“Developing the agriculture sector will speed up development of the countryside and when the countryside develops, it creates wealth and livelihood, and it lessens poverty. So, we should take advantage of improving the sector.”
“There is a sense of optimism in our sector because the administration is giving it importance, which I’ve never seen before. It makes us all excited. But there’s a lot of work to be done. The private sector and the government must work hand in hand together with other stakeholders. And we need to start now. Everyone saw the importance of food sustainability and food security when the whole world is in lockdown and when other countries like Singapore couldn’t get supply of chicken from Malaysia. Now is the proper time because we’ve opened our minds on how important agriculture is for nation-building and for the people.”
Challenges and opportunities
Mr. Sarmiento described a range of actions aimed at making the local industry competitive.
“Seeing the success of rice tariffication, I would like to see it expanded to other inputs that will help the livestock sector to be more competitive.”
“There’s a lot of work to be done on productivity, education, alignment of policies, as well as disparity of tariffs. There’s also potential in public-private partnership (PPP). We can unlock the resources of the private sector because they want this, too. For example, we can do a PPP on furnaces to control animal diseases, like African swine fever (ASF). Biosecurity is key if we don’t want ASF to spread. So, give the private sector incentives to build furnaces such that if one town gets affected, they don’t have to bury the pigs somewhere else, which only spreads the disease.”
He then noted certain recommendations that may be considered by the government in 2023 and in the next six years.
“First is appropriate policies to address the rising costs of fertilizer and all other inputs that support the agriculture industry. Inputs have dramatically risen since the second half of last year. If those costs are controlled, that would have an impact across the board.
Second is alignment of policies. I believe we have some disparity on our tariffs—importing corn is 35% to 50% but if you import the end product, the rate is well below 35%. What does it say? It encourages import dependence. If we can fix that properly, that’s already a big leap—we would be able to manage imports and flourish even more.
Third is the passage of the Land Use Act. Having a zoning policy can really help the industry.
Finally, since the president is the secretary of the department, I would like to see him champion a roadmap together with the private sector and all the stakeholders, so we know what to do, where we want to go most importantly, and how to get there. A clear goal will unite the industry and stakeholders and keep everybody in sync.”
A snapshot of Vitarich
When asked about VITA, Mr. Sarmiento explained how demand recovery drove the company’s record revenue performance in 2021 and in the first three quarters of 2022. He also provided perspective for 2023.
“We’ve seen a massive recovery in demand. During the extreme COVID lockdowns in 2020, most of our customers were practically closed the whole time. Now that the economy has opened up and people are going out eating, it has given us huge opportunity. It’s almost a revenge recovery if compared to 2019.”
“We expect the first half of 2023 to be about the same as regards rising costs. We’re hopeful there will be no new significant events that might even make things worse. After the first half, our forecast is that costs will stabilize and somehow show a downtrend, but I think we’ll only really feel that in 2024.”
Addressing the aging farmer
Mr. Sarmiento stressed how competitiveness can increase economic prospects for farmers, their children, and businesses.
“We have to create an environment where there’s opportunity to do business. In the livestock sector, there are already a lot of young entrepreneurs. The way farming is done is highly scientific, so they have an advantage, they have capital and education. These are the things that need to trickle down to the rice and corn farmers and everyone else.”
The annual economic forum is a high-level event that fosters dialogue among businesses, government, and other stakeholders on relevant topics, issues, and trends. This year’s forum was titled “Forecast 2023: Opportunity in Uncertainty.” The one-hour panel discussion was moderated by BusinessWorld editor-in-chief Wilfredo G. Reyes and joined by other panelists namely Bruce J. Tolentino, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas private sector board member, and Dr. William S. Co, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman and director of the agriculture and fishery committee.
About Vitarich Corporation
Vitarich Corporation (PSE: VITA) is a leading poultry integrator and manufacturer of animal feeds and food products in the Philippines. Certified to international standards for sanitation, food safety, and quality, VITA operates in three primary industry segments: feeds, food, and farms—forging livelihood and nourishing lives. For more information, visit www.vitarich.com or contact firstname.lastname@example.org