“The new law institutionalizing a national feeding program for undernourished Filipino children in public schools has created a higher demand for locally produced milk, thus, providing livelihood opportunities for dairy farmers and boosting the local dairy industry.”
This was underscored by Philippine Carabao Center’s (PCC) Executive Director Dr. Arnel Del Barrio during the celebration of the 13th Gatas ng Kalabaw Festival last October 8 in General M. Natividad, Nueva Ecija, which coincided with the 100th day in service of the town’s newly elected Mayor Anita Arocena.
“There is a ready local market for milk, as there is already a budget for that. What we lack is enough supply of milk. We are seeking for your (dairy farmers) help not just to double but to triple your milk production. Help us collect, process, and feed milk to Filipino children,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed Masustansyang Pagkain para sa Batang Pilipino Act or Republic Act 11037 last June 2018 to address the problem of undernutrition among Filipino children (aged 3-12 years old) in day care centers, kindergarten, and elementary.
Under the law, the government shall provide a supplemental feeding program for day care children, which will be implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and local government units (LGUs); a school-based feeding program for public school children from kinder to Grade 6, to be implemented by the Department of Education (DepEd); and a milk feeding program, wherein fresh milk is one of the components in the fortified meals and cycle menu. This will include the provision of at least 100 ml of locally produced fresh milk to undernourished children and will be done in coordination with PCC, National Dairy Authority (NDA), and the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA).
Dr. Del Barrio stressed the need to scale up local milk production, as milk demand rises in line with the national feeding program. He also cited the significant roles and contributions of dairy farmers in meeting this challenge.
“According to DSWD and DepEd, we will be needing at least 600,000 liters of milk daily to support the milk feeding program for undernourished children across the country. The DepEd has Php1 billion budget for the feeding program this year. They (DSWD and DepEd) will even allocate higher budget for the said program next year. Hence, dairy farmers are urged to gear up for this challenge and opportunity,” he averred.
“Gradually, we, at PCC, NDA, and CDA, together with LGUs, will have a campaign in all municipalities to convince farmers to increase milk production and encourage more farmers to engage in dairying,” he added.
Dr. Del Barrio also mentioned about the twin goals of the Department of Agriculture: “Masaganang Ani at Mataas na Kita”, which is aligned with the slogan of this year’s host of Gatas ng Kalabaw Festival – General M. Natividad: “Angat Nativideño, Isulong Natin ang Tagumpay at Asensong Para sa Lahat”.
The annual Gatas ng Kalabaw Festival, in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), is one way of promoting carabao’s milk not only for its economic benefits but also for its important contributions to the health and nutrition of smallholder dairy farmers and their families as well as milk consumers in general.
It is made possible through a technical working group participated in by DTI, PCC, Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), DA as well as the provincial and local government units.
The highlight of the celebration was the symbolic “tagay-pugay (toast of salutation)”, a simultaneous milk toasting and drinking featuring day care students and representatives from partner private institutions and government agencies. It accentuated the significance of multi-sectoral efforts in the increased programs of the local dairy industry in Nueva Ecija.
Meanwhile, Mayor Arocena extended her gratitude to the PCC, DTI, DAR and other agencies and government units that are supporting this kind of endeavor to develop and strengthen the local dairy industry for the benefit of local dairy farmers in her town and in the whole province.
The PCC, on the other hand, was recognized by the DTI as its most outstanding partner agency for the “promotion and development of dairy cooperatives and of the whole dairy industry cluster in Nueva Ecija”.
After the program, a kick off activity of milk feeding program was conducted involving 400 elementary students at General Natividad Central School. The milk was provided by the Nueva Ecija Federation of Dairy Carabao Cooperatives (NEFEDCCO).
Other activities included in the celebration were micro, small, medium enterprise (MSME) trade fair, presentation of accomplishments of Mayor Arocena’s 1st 100 days in service, raffle draw, intermission numbers performed by high school students in General Natividad and a community dance number with PCC mascots “Kalaboy” and “Kalagirl”.
The festival and the celebration of 1st 100 days in service of Mayor Arocena was attended by 800 stakeholders from the private sector, LGUs, government agencies, students, teachers, dairy farmers, and others.