‘Agriculture revival best way to cut poverty’

Reviving the country’s agricultural sector should be the main strategy of President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte in reducing poverty in the rural areas.

“[His] record on agricultural development and rural-poverty reduction can make or unmake Digong’s legacy,” Dr. Rolando Dy, executive director of the University of Asia and the Pacific’s Center for Food and Agribusiness, told the BusinessMirror.

According to the economist, about 26 percent of Filipinos are poor, most of them from the rural areas and heavily dependent on agriculture for their livelihood.

“If Duterte wants to have a dramatic impact on reducing poverty, then focus on agricultural productivity and diversification,” he asserted. Uplifting the lives of farmers, he added, can be achieved by increasing farmers’ income and promoting balanced and inclusive agriculture development in the country.

The expert said the country needs to develop road maps for various commodities, establish value-chain corridors all over the country and create agriculture infrastructure in the local government. He said the Philippines should learn from its Asean counterparts on how they were able to improve their productivity and reduce rural poverty. Dy also commended Duterte’s eight-point economic agenda, particularly the first four in the list, including his commitment to the agriculture sector.

“These are good agenda and represents reforms,” he said.

Duterte’s economic agenda

Baring his eight-point economic agenda, Duterte promised to provide support services to small farmers, such as irrigation, to increase farm productivity in the country. He also assured improved market access and agriculture value chain.

Many leaders lauded his agenda for agriculture, but in the end, they said its effectivity would depend on how the presumptive president and his appointed agriculture secretary would implement it. “It depends on how he will implement it,” said Edwin Chen, president of Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines (Propork).

For Philippine Maize Federation Inc. President Roger Navarro, a big part of it would be the synergy between the Departments of Agriculture (DA), the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Science and Technology (DOST) and of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The DA, he said, should cooperate with the DILG for the extension of services, the DTI for marketing and trade policies, and the DOST for weather and climate-change concerns, as well as technology development.

“If there is no synergy among these agencies, the DA’s programs would fail to reach farmers in the barangay level,” Navarro told the BusinessMirror.

The Samahang Industriya Ng Agrikultura (Sinag), meanwhile, expressed alarm on Duterte’s agenda to lift foreign-ownership restrictions on businesses.

“We are concerned with the possible implications of this. Agriculture should be developed locally, and we are wary if this reform happens, foreign companies might buy our agricultural lands and exploit our resources,” Sinag Chairman Rosendo So said.

The industry group said foreign investments in agriculture and fisheries production and processing could cripple the local industry and, therefore, should not be allowed.

High hopes from agriculture sector

Other leaders from different agriculture subsectors also expressed confidence that Duterte is on the right track in pursuing the development of the agriculture sector. This means the next administration has to perform well, as hopes and expectations from farmers’ and stakeholders in the sector are so high.

Chen said the hog industry has high hopes on the fight against smuggling, which is hurting local industries, particularly small farmers and fishermen.

“If the government stops the rampant smuggling of agricultural products and support the local industries through collaboration and increased production, we can see farmers’ income to grow,” the industry leader said.

Jesus L. Arranza, chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries Inc. and president of the Coconut Oil Refiners Association, also expressed the same sentiment.

“I feel that he [Duterte] will instill discipline and order in the system…he knows what should be done to prevent the encroachment [of smuggled goods in the country],” he said. Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association Executive Director Stephen Antig, for his part, said banana and pineapple growers in the country are expecting the next president to be supportive of these industries, and aid them in becoming more competitive in the world market through support services that will increase productivity and improve the quality of goods.

“Assistance in the identification of new markets is also imperative, considering that many players and competitors are now encroaching into our traditional market,” he added. Roberto Amores, one of the lead conveners of the Agri-Fisheries Alliance and president of the Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization Inc., said stakeholder participation in agriculture projects, supervision of extension workers, credit extension to farmers, production subsidies and technical support are also important to promote aggressive growth in the agriculture sector.

Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. Executive Director Francisco Buencamino said the next administration must also craft effective policies and guidelines that will increase the production and supply of agricultural products to make sure food will be available and more affordable for Filipino consumers.



1 comment

  1. The next president can’t possibly address all of these.. As I see most of us Filipinos are already depending on him trying to clear the system that has corrupted ever since 1986 (cause theoretically after the end of Martial Law, the Philippines should have been a developed country as we are on the right position of becoming one but that never happened). And let’s face it he can’t do that , at least he can’t make it happen just yet. Although the intentions are there I believe that the process is long and winding. Let us not put the faith of an entire country to just one person, we have elected, our voices have been heard but it doesn’t end there. We are part of the process, we have do what we can as a nation. Let’s not play the blame game at what happens after.

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