Newly-appointed Agriculture Secretary William Dar announced Tuesday his plan to make the sector more profitable and lift the income of millions of farmers and fishers.
“This will require the development and meaningful implementation of programs and projects that will result in increased agricultural productivity, competitiveness and profitability taking into account sustainability and resilience for agriculture smallholders,” he said.
“One important law that has to be properly implemented is the Rice Tariffication Law including that of its Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund. Currently, there are a number of factors causing low farmer and fisherfolk income. Among these are high production cost, limited cropping diversification, low productivity, low-income elasticity and volatile commodity prices,” he said.
Dar proposed the so-called 8-paradigm strategy that involves the “new thinking” for agriculture. These include modernization of agriculture, industrialization of agriculture, promotion of exports, farm consolidation, roadmap development, infrastructure development, higher budget and investments for agriculture and legislative support.
Dar cited a need to diversify crop production in the Philippines as about 80 percent of the country’s farmlands were devoted to only three crops: rice, corn and coconut.
“Agripreneurship should also form part of the paradigm to modernize Philippine agriculture, as farming and fisheries should be treated as business undertakings or industries,” he said.
He said while higher productivity was a major objective, it was equally important to produce more income by value-adding, processing, manufacturing and developing markets for both raw and processed agricultural products.
There is also a need to engage the private sector in investing in and setting up more agri-based industries in the countryside and developing markets for agriculture products, he said.
He said the industrialization of Philippine agriculture should be supported by the framework for the digitization of farming and agribusiness activities in the country where credit is made available, affordable and accessible.
Dar said there should be a systematic and long-term strategy in developing and promoting exports of raw and processed agricultural products.
This requires economies of scale in on-farm production that will generate sustained quantity and quality of export products.
The private sector’s role will be essential in developing and promoting agricultural products, he said.
Dar said that while Thailand has 13 types of farm exports earning over $1 billion each year, Indonesia has five and Vietnam seven, the Philippines only has two agricultural products”•bananas and coconut that earn at least $1 billion per year in export receipts.
He said another strategy is the promotion and support for farm consolidation arrangements to bring about economies of scale, particularly for crops that require mechanization and massive use of technology like block farming, trust farming, contract farming and corporative farming.
Dar said the creation of roadmaps should be an integral part of revolutionizing farming.