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Agri sector preparing for ASEAN Economic Integration by end-2015

QUEZON CITY - Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala assured the agribusiness sector and its development partners that the government has been working to better prepare the agri-fishery for fast-liberalizing global trade, including the much-anticipated ASEAN economic integration by end of 2015.
 
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 21st AgriLink, Foodlink and AquaLink trade show Thursday at World Trade Center in Pasay City, Alcala said the DA has intensified the small farm clustering initiative and its focus on post-harvest technology and collective marketing, as part of its Agri-Pinoy commodity programs. This way, he said, farmers are assisted to produce economies of scale and added value as required by bigger markets.
 
“Tatlong taon at kalahati na ang nakararaan, nanindigan tayo sa Agri Pinoy, isang estratehiyang pang-agrikultura na holistiko at sumasakop sa buong value chain, tuluy-tuloy o sustainable at nilalahukan at pinakikinabangan ng lahat o inklusibo,” Alcala said. (For the past 3 ½ years, we carry out the Agri-Pinoy framework, a holistic and sustainable approach to development that involves and benefits every single player in the value chain.”)
 
He mentioned the establishment of processing and marketing hubs dubbed as Agri-Pinoy Trading Centers designed to provide direct linkage between food producers and consumers, which translates to a more stable and affordable supply for consumers.
 
Built strategically across the country, these trading centers are equipped with storage, transport and market facilities. In several cases, these hubs are intended to serve as training centers where farmers will be taught about the latest and appropriate technologies that will help them produce high quality commodities at lower costs.
 
This year alone, DA hopes to start the operations of seven trading centers nationwide, in tandem with farmers’ organizations and local governments. These include the P28-million corn processing and trading center that DA recently opened in Tayabas City, Quezon to cater to the postharvest requirements of thousands of farmers from Quezon and some parts of nearby Batangas.
 
DA, through the lead effort of the Sugar Regulatory Administration, also continues to undertake the sugarcane block-farming project, in partnership with the Department of Agrarian Reform.
 
In this initiative, small farms owned by land reform beneficiaries were consolidated into integrated farming blocks of 30 to 50 hectares to attain economies of scale and promote cost-efficient sugar farming practices. As of December 2013, some 28 sugar farm blocks have been established.
 
Philippine Rural Development Program
In addition, one essential feature of the upcoming Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP), Alcala said, is the clustering of farms and production and marketing facilities along the value chain to ensure the production of marketable surpluses, increased incomes and better quality of life for all farmers.
 
PRDP, which DA will officially launch in Cebu next month, is a largely infrastructure initiative assisted by the World Bank that support value-adding and crop diversification activities for priority commodities.
 
In the pipeline this year under PRDP’s i-REAP component are 32 agribusiness ventures worth P471.9 million. These include coffee processing in Kalinga, dairy in Cagayan Valley, “kasuy” processing in Palawan, and coconut geonet and sap sugar in Bicol.
 
Also part of DA’s strategy to prosper in an increasingly competitive global trade is the continuing negotiations for the harmonization of ASEAN food and agricultural products standards, including the passage of the Food Safety Law last year.
 
Showcase of PH agri’s best, vibrancy of the industry
Which is why, Alcala said, DA supports AgriLink, and considers it to be yet another strong step toward the attainment of a modernized economy and a resilient, more competitive national agricultural landscape.
 
“I thank and commend the FRLD and the other organizers of this Agrilink, Foodlink and Aqualink event for their perseverance in giving us this yearly showcase of the Philippines’ best agricultural products, processes, machineries and achievements,” he said.
 
According to the DA chief, agribusiness trade shows such as Agrilink, in fact, reflects the enthusiasm and vibrancy of the farm and fishery sector that translates to enhanced food security and higher quality of life for the stakeholders.

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