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Saturday, July 13, 2024

DA chief backs sustainable and modern farming

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The Department of Agriculture is charting a more sustainable and productive future, focusing on both environment protection and economic growth.

The DA recognizes the vital role agriculture plays in national security, economic prosperity and environmental well-being.

However, limitations in infrastructure, resource management and access to technology hinder the sector’s full potential and its sustainability.

Fortunately, recommendations recently submitted by regional agricultural and fisheries councils attempt to address the crucial aspects of agricultural sustainability in several ways.

Among the recommendations of the regional councils are the establishment of cold storage facilities for vegetables, including onions, as well as laboratories for biosecurity concerns; and construction of farm-to-market roads or other modes for faster movement of agricultural products.

The DA staff recommended the conversion of rice competitive enhancement funds to price subsidy; mechanization of farm processes, including those for high value crops and fiber; and the establishment of local nurseries and seed banks to ensure high quality planting materials and seeds.

It is pushing to widen and intensify soil testing to optimize land use and productivity; establish inland fisheries and hatcheries in upland areas; and revive direct farmer linkage to market via KADIWA centers;

The DA support staff also urged the timely release of hybrid seed and fertilizer interventions; construction of more irrigation facilities; implementation of higher biofuel blend to help the coconut industry; creation of a Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture; and the establishment of data center for timely agricultural statistics.

Wider perspective

Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel said the dialogue with regional councils gave him a clearer perspective on how to pursue agricultural modernization.

He said a 10-point agenda is now being finalized by the DA to address issues holding back the progress of the country’s farm sector and its stakeholders, especially farmers and fisherfolk.

More infrastructures, including warehouses, seaports, food terminals and roads would be built to help bring down the cost of food when they reach consumers, he added.

“The DA is also working towards digitalization and a thorough review of the minimum access volume to rationalize food importation,” he said.

As the DA prepares for more consultations with stakeholders on future programs, it vowed to find the funds needed to substantially address all the issues and recommendations submitted by agricultural and fisheries councils across the country.

Agriculture accounts for four in every 10 jobs in the Philippines but the sector’s contribution to the domestic economy is less than 10 percent.

A dramatic improvement in the farm sector could generate more jobs and lead to faster growth of the economy, aside from taming inflation and reducing dependence on imported agricultural products.

Space technology

The DA’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond just modernizing the agricultural sector. Its recent partnership with the Philippine Space Agency (PhilSA) highlights this focus. The collaboration harnesses the power of space technology to achieve key objectives.

By utilizing remote sensing and sophisticated agricultural systems, the project equips farmers with valuable data on crop health and soil conditions. It empowers them to make informed decisions regarding planting schedules, resource allocation and pest management, ultimately leading to improved yields and reduced waste.

Space technology allows the partnership to monitor agricultural commodities (like onions and corn) and farm-to-market roads. The comprehensive monitoring enables the identification of areas where resources can be optimized.

The technology also includes minimizing water waste through targeted irrigation and optimizing transportation routes to reduce post-harvest losses.

The project will generate crucial data that will sway policy decisions related to resource allocation, and promote sustainable practices nationwide. A data-driven approach ensures a more informed and effective agricultural development strategy.

The pilot testing of the project in Nueva Ecija serves as a crucial first step. The success of the initiative can be a model for wider implementation, paving the way for a future where farmers are being equipped to be data-driven decision makers. They will have insights on crop health, soil conditions and resource use and they can optimize practices for sustainability and profitability.

The DA is positive that through collaboration, investment in innovation, and a commitment to long-term sustainability, the Philippines can build a resilient, inclusive and secure agricultural sector.

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