Horticulture growers and entrepreneurs in the country are calling on the government to consider listing horticulture as a priority industry for the development of this “potentially growing”field.
Philippine Horticultural Society Inc. (PHSI) President Norma Villanueva told the BusinessMirror horticulture used to be a listed priority under the Department of Agriculture (DA). This was, however, removed, which means the industry does not receive enough support from the government anymore. “When you’re a listed priority industry, you get budgetary support from the government. There would be an initiative from the government to help you in whatever undertaking you have. But now, there’s none, so we are on our own,” Villanueva said in a phone interview.
Aside from budgetary support, Villanueva said being a priority industry also means it would be a primary concern of the government in terms of interventions, incentives and policies. “It would, therefore, help improve our production. There would also be an expected increase in marketing support. It’s, hopefully, a venue for the progress of the horticulture industry,” she said.
Villanueva described the road to being a priority industry as a “long and tedious” process. For one, there is no existing statistics that provide a picture of the status of the country’s horticulture industry.
The PHSI official said data are crucial, as before the government could even decide to prioritize a certain industry, a market research should be done as back up to the stakeholders’ request.
At the moment, she said the PHSI is affiliating with other groups, such as garden organizations from the regions, to collate the needed data, including the number of farmers, volume and value of production, imports and exports, among others.
“We’re trying to get all the statistics. We will compile them all together and it will not be easy as we also need data during the past decade, so we can project what will happen to the industry in the next 10 years,” Villanueva explained.
She said the PHSI is currently in talks with the DA’s Bureau of Plant Industry and the departments of Environment and Natural Resources and Tourism to identify which agency the group should link up with to have the horticulture industry prioritized.
Horticulture in PHL
Despite the lack of statistics, the PHSI asserted that horticulture is a “small but growing industry.”
“It’s thriving now because a lot of people are really into it, trying to revive it. There are a lot of growers and individual businesses that import and export plants,” Villanueva said. She added that people often mistake horticulturists as hobbyists, but unknown to them, horticulture has a big scope—from fruits, vegetables, ornaments and even medicinal plants.
“Horticulture really is the nurturing and propagation of plants. So it’s very general and all-encompassing. Under it, there’s fruits and vegetables, flowers, medicinal plants, trees, marine flora and more,” she explained.
But currently, she said the government is focusing more on the propagation of farm produce, but not on the other branches of horticulture.
Agriculture Deputy Chief of Staff Dennis Arpia, for his part, said in a phone interview that the DA has not abandoned the industry. However, he said it is not a primary concern of the government as of now.
“The government’s thrust is ensuring enough food through its Food Staples Sufficiency Program. But seeing as horticulture mostly does not deal with food, it is not on the forefront of our programs, though, that is not to say we are abandoning it,” Arpia said. He added that each region in the country provides support to help horticultural growers in the provinces.
Arpia cited, as an example, the proposal to use the old trading post in La Trinidad, Benguet, as a trading area for the growers of flowers in the area. This trading post used to be the market place for all agricultural goods in the province before the construction of the Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center. Arpia said the proposal is already being finalized, so horticulture growers can benefit from the old trading center.
The official added that the DA, through its Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service, is assisting horticultural growers in trading their products.
In the meantime, the PHSI said it is providing information and training to farmers on the proper propagation of plants. Villanueva added that the group is urging the growers to begin planting seeds by the thousands, especially Philippine endemic plants, and contribute to the growth of the industry.
But she said farmers could not risk planting a lot as they are uncertain if they would be able to sell their products. This is why there is a need for government support to ensure that these growers and entrepreneurs would succeed.