"This, amid the disruption that the pandemic is causing the economy."
With COVID-19 aggressively wreaking havoc on the global economy, the agriculture sector continues to lead the way to economic recovery.
Last Tuesday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar led the ceremonial send-off of the first batch of okra or ladyfinger export to to Japan at the Pair-Pags Center in Naia Road, signaling the country’s attempt to corner a large chunk of Japan’s high demand for agricultural products.
Next in line will be the first batch of edamame export, also to Japan.
The okra export were harvested from different farms from 14 barangays in Tarlac – Victoria, Balayang, Palacpalac, Batang-Batang, Lalapac, Mayang, San Pascual, Villa Bacolor, Matayumtayum, San Jose, San Manuel, Balingcanaway, Cutcut, and Lapaz.
The project involved 300 farmers led by young farmer-entrepreneurs Jeffrey Fernandez and Rap Pelayo of Jel Farms.
According to Fernandez and Pelayo, with the present set-up, a farmer is can earn up to P90,000 to P100,000 net of expenses per hectare. Same goes with edamame. Both products are in demand in the cities of Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe and Nagoya in Japan.
Dar is ready to throw his office’s support for the okra and edamame industry saying he would prioritize the setting-up of cold storages for the said purpose, which he said, could effectively increase the farmers’ income to up to P120,000 per hectare.
Targeted for okra and edamame plantation expansion are 900 to 1,000 hectares.
“Under my watch, I assure you that the Department of Agriculture will extend all the assistance we can give to every farmer, including the group involved in this okra-edamame exportation to Japan, to enhance our agricultural production, and in the process, advance the livelihood of our farmers,” Dar said during the send-off ceremony.
Actually, the Department of Agriculture, under Dar’s watch, has been among the first to render economic response to the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing nationwide the Duterte administration’s “Plant, Plant, Plant Program” or “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Laban sa Covid-19” program to benefit farmers, fishers and consumers as early as April. This was one month after the country was placed under community quarantine.
Under the Plant, Plant, Plant Program, Dar conducted regional teleconferencing consultations and planning nationwide with the agency’s different partners – local government units, and regional and provincial agriculture and fishery councils – updating them on developments due to the COVID-19 national emergency situation and enhance the implementation of refocused DA programs.
To ensure the smooth implementation of the program, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the agency’s request for a P31-billion supplemental budget aimed at increasing national agri-fishery output through intensified use of quality seeds, appropriate inputs, modern technologies to increase levels of productivity across all commodities, and thus ensure food productivity, availability, accessibility and affordability amidst the threat of Covid-19 pandemic,.
Of the P31-billion additional budget, Dar said they have successfully pursued an P8.5-billion Rice Resiliency Project aimed at producing more rice to increase the country’s sufficiency level from the present 87 percent to 93 percent.
By the end of December, Dar said he expects palay production to reach 22.12 million metric tons. This is equivalent to 13.51 MMT of rice or 93 percent of the country’s total demand at 14.46 MMT.
“Right after the current dry season, we will urge farmers to plant more areas by providing them quality seeds, fertilizers, and appropriate technical assistance,” said secretary Dar.
Dar also said the DA would continue to provide support to the farmers through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which guarantees a P10-billion allocation annually from rice tariffs. RCEF is appropriated to provide farmers with machinery and equipment, certified inbred seed, credit, and training.
He made the announcement during the Distribution of Livelihood Assistance to Fisherfolk and Farm Machinery to Farmers which took place in Malolos City, Bulacan after the send-off of the okra export to Japan.
And Dar could have never described agriculture’s contribution to the country more aptly when he said that while other business sectors continue to bleed on account of an economic slowdown due to this COVID-19 pandemic, the country is still blessed to have a sustained activity on the agri-industry front.
At this most crucial time, agriculture leads the way to our economic recovery.