August 7, 2019
New Philippine agriculture chief plans to boost local farming
Newly-appointed Agriculture Secretary William Dar announced Tuesday his plan to make the sector more profitable and lift the income of millions of farmers and fishers, the Manila Standard reports.
"This will require the development and meaningful implementation of programmes and projects that will result in increased agricultural productivity, competitiveness and profitability taking into account sustainability and resilience for agriculture smallholders," he said.
"Currently, there are a number of factors causing low farmer and fisherfolk income. Among these are high production cost, limited cropping diversification, low productivity, low-income elasticity and volatile commodity prices," he added.
Dar proposed the 8-paradigm strategy that involves the "new thinking" for agriculture. This includes modernisation of agriculture, industrialisation of agriculture, promotion of exports, farm consolidation, roadmap development, infrastructure development, and higher budget and investments for agriculture and legislative support.
Dar cited a need to diversify the country's crop production as about 80% is devoted to only three crops: rice, corn and coconut.
"Agripreneurship should also form part of the paradigm to modernise Philippine agriculture, as farming and fisheries should be treated as business undertakings or industries," he said.
He said while higher productivity was a key objective, it was just as important to produce more income by value-adding, processing, manufacturing and developing markets for both raw and processed agricultural products.
There is also a need to engage the private sector in investing in and establishing more agri-based industries in the countryside and developing markets for agriculture products.
He said the industrialisation of agriculture should be supported by the framework for the digitisation of agribusiness where credit is made affordable and accessible.
Dar pointed out that economies of scale in on-farm production will generate sustained quantity and quality of export products. One strategy is the promotion and support for farm consolidation arrangements to bring about economies of scale, particularly for crops that require mechanisation and massive use of technology like block farming, trust farming, contract farming and corporative farming.
Dar said that while Thailand has 13 types of farm exports earning over US$1 billion annually, Indonesia has five and Vietnam seven, the Philippines has only two agricultural exports - bananas and coconut - that earn at least US$1 billion per year.