QUEZON CITY, May 19 – Four leading Filipino economists recommend structural reforms are needed to address the plight of the Philippine agro-fisheries sector and reduce poverty among farmers and fishermen, on day one of the Food Security Summit 2021 organized by the Department of Agriculture (DA).
On the one hand, reforms need to be made on the continued bias against agriculture in government budget allocation, over-regulation of markets and monopolies, said Dr V. Bruce J. Tolentino, current member of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Monetary Council and former DA Under Secretary for Policy and Planning.
“In the short term, it is appropriate to organize programs and activities that provide support to farmers and fishermen during the reform process,” said Tolentino, stressing the importance of agricultural credit and insurance to relieve the fate of agricultural actors.
For his part, the former secretary of socio-economic planning, Cielito F. Habito, said the DA is going in the right direction, but that agriculture is too important to be left to the agency alone.
While DA initiatives – such as the Eight Paradigm Shift, OneDA, and province-led agriculture-fishery extension systems – are noteworthy, Habito said farming is not the only job. of DA. He must lead and local governments must row.
“Farmers, bureaucrats, scientists, non-government workers, large and small entrepreneurs, bankers and financiers, traders, logistics service providers and workers, as well as consumers in general, all have a role. precious to play, ”said Habito.
He added that “food self-sufficiency is best ensured through meaningful and effective support to farmers to improve productivity and competitiveness”.
Habito lamented that, compared to nine ASEAN countries, the Philippines ranks seventh with a food security scoreboard of 73, beating Cambodia and Laos, based on the World Food Security Index. The Economist 2020.
The concept of food security, Habito explained, involves a combination of food availability, affordability, quality and safety, and resilience to risk.
“A nation can be self-sufficient and food insecure; and can be food secure even if it is not self-sufficient, ”he added.
Ramon L. Clarete, dean of the School of Economics at the University of the Philippines, focused his discussion on the country’s prospects for participating in the global food security trade.
He pointed out that the Philippines is not capturing a total of $ 249.7 million in potential export earnings, including $ 148 million for the US market.
Competition also plays a crucial role in trade, as he noted that traditional markets such as China, South Korea and Japan are slowing imports of Philippine agricultural products.
Finally, Clarete said that four countries offer export opportunities for the main agricultural and fishery products of the Philippines. These are Canada, the Netherlands, China and Hong Kong.
For his part, Rolando T.Dy, executive director of the Center for Food and Agri-Business at the University of Asia and the Pacific, gave an overview of the Philippine agricultural trade, noting that in 2019, the total value of imports agriculture was twice as high as exports, at US $ 14.5 billion (B) and US $ 6.7 billion, respectively.
He said that to reverse this trade imbalance, productivity needs to be increased.
For example, he said that rice and coffee have the potential to improve yield and quality. Increasing their production can be achieved using appropriate modes such as farm consolidation and private sector engagement.
Likewise, increased production of current major exports such as bananas, pineapples and Cavendish pineapples and coconut products could be achieved through land leases and contractual growth agreements.
He concluded that the main drivers of improved agricultural productivity are access to land, consolidation and consolidation of farms, organization of the supply chain, as well as equity and finance.
Under Secretary for Policy and Planning Rodolfo Vicerra, meanwhile, spelled out the “10 Commandments for Developing Philippine Agriculture” to guide summit participants in their small-group sector discussions:
1. Improve safety nets and agricultural insurance
2. Environmental protection and regeneration
3. Boost the infrastructure from farm to market
4. Establish more post-harvest processing and storage
5. Attract young people and agricultural professionals
6. Improve access to agricultural equipment and machinery
7. Empower farmers and fishermen as market actors
8. Expand access to agri-credit and finance
9. Establish partnerships for agricultural development DA-LGU
10. Increase the budget / improve the investment climate.
For his part, Secretary William D. Dar brought summit participants together to “propose the necessary policy directions and strategies that will address the key issues facing the agriculture and fisheries sectors and provide inputs to update product and industry roadmaps to the new standard.
He stressed that “it is imperative to support and strengthen the country’s food production, distribution and logistics systems to ensure that natural and man-made disasters do not threaten food security and nutrition. , and improve the resilience of the Philippines to future shocks ”.
Finally, the Director-General, Dr Qu Dongyu of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said in his opening speech: “Transformed agrifood systems will play a key role in meeting the challenges. global issues of malnutrition, poverty and hunger. . “
He said FAO’s strategic framework for the next decade aims to support the 2030 Agenda through the transformation towards more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable agrifood systems for better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life. , leaving no one behind. These reflect the interconnected economic, social and environmental dimensions of agrifood systems.
“To get to where we need to be by 2030, we urgently need to do things differently and act holistically. We need to rely on data and science, foster partnerships and encourage innovation. FAO provides knowledge and analysis to help its members make evidence-based decisions, ”the FAO chief added.
“In the Philippines, we carried out a rapid assessment of the impact of the pandemic on food supply chains, in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD),” said Dr Qu Dongyu.
He added that “FAO is honored to continue to work with the Philippines to transform agrifood systems, making agriculture an engine of economic growth, especially in these difficult times.”
“Our long-standing partnership can be further articulated at the upcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit. I congratulate Secretary William Dar on being appointed organizer of the Philippine national dialogues for the Summit. I want to assure you of FAO’s full support as you continue to embark on your “New Thinking to Transform Philippine Agriculture”. It is only by working together that we can rebuild better and stronger, ”he concluded. (DA)