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Tuesday, February 27, 2024

‘New thinking’ key to lifting agriculture

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Newly-appointed Agriculture Secretary William Dar believes agriculture requires “new thinking” to bring the farming sector to the next level.

‘New thinking’ key to lifting agriculture
Agriculture Secretary William Dar

Dar crafted a policy paper recommending measures on how to maximize farm resources to bring the local agriculture to a new level of modernization and industrialization.

Dubbed as the “New Thinking”, the policy paper aims to double the income of farmers and fisherfolk.

“Furthermore, the proposed policies aim to collectively empower farmers and fisherfolk and the private sector to increase agricultural productivity and profitability, taking into account sustainability and resilience,” Dar said. 

“The mission and vision should guide the actors and stakeholders in the agriculture sector to ensure the achievement of the objective of making farmers and fisherfolk prosperous, with the eight paradigms below putting in place the required policies, programs, projects and funding,” Dar said.

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To bring Philippine agriculture to the next level, the Agriculture Department identified eight paradigms to support this bid. They include modernization, industrialization, export promotion, consolidation of small- and medium-sized farms, infrastructure development, higher budget and investment in agriculture, legislative support and roadmap development.

An assessment by the department shows that the country’s farming and fisheries sector is in a “critical” stage as it has erratically grown in the past five years. 

Challenges faced by the farming sector range from low farm productivity to lack of labor, unaffordable and inaccessible credit, limited use of technology, limited farmland diversification, undeveloped agri-manufacturing and export, severe deforestation/land degradation, aging farmers and fisherfolk and climate change.

Records show that in 2014, the sector grew by 1.83 percent, slid 0.11 percent in 2015 and bounced back by 1.41 percent in 2016. In 2017, it grew 3.95 percent but posted a dismal 0.56-percent growth in 2018 which was nowhere near the government’s growth target of 4 percent.

The OECD in a 2017 review of Philippine agricultural policies recommended several policies to enhance the long-term productivity growth of the agricultural sector.  These include a policy package to improve food security by enhancing diversification of production, consumption and income and using safety net measures such as conditional cash transfers and food vouchers.

It advised the country to re-focus agrarian land policies from land distribution to securing property rights through land governance reforms.

Other recommendations include focusing the budgetary support on long-term structural reform, re-orienting agricultural knowledge systems, adopting a holistic approach to risk management with a policy focus on catastrophic risks, assessing insurance and cash-transfer schemes that can encourage adaptive decisions and improving the sector’s capacity to adapt to climate change.

While there are laws and proposed measures that push for the modernization of domestic agriculture, one recently-passed law which liberalizes rice importation is seen as a game-changer.

As far as the Agriculture Department is concerned, the law which abolished the quantitative restriction on rice imports and established the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund provides an opportunity to lift rural incomes by enhancing farm productivity and helping farmers produce high-value crops.

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