Last Dec. 13, Department of Agriculture (DA) officials presented a draft Agriculture and Modernization Plan (2011-2017) to the National Agriculture and Fisheries Council (NAFC).
NAFC is a legislated public-private sector body created to make agricultural development recommendations to the DA.
Though most of the NAFC members had not received the 247-page draft plan, they nevertheless supported the general direction of the powerpoint summary given during the NAFC meeting.
Goals. The plan’s four goals are to raise rural income, ensure food security, enhance global competitiveness, and increase sustainability and resilience. These goals are important. They address rural poverty, our hunger problem, our rapidly liberalizing trade regime (with the general 0% Asean tariff effective as soon as 2015), and climate change (part of which we experienced during the devastating typhoon Pablo). Though 35 percent of our workforce is directly involved in the agriculture sector, this rises to 50 percent if we include the agriculture value chain. This sector has the most poverty. Ironically, many believe it is here where we have the greatest potential for growth.
Consider the information below taken from the Food and Agriculture Organization Corporate Statistical Database.
LAND PRODUCTIVITY, 2009 (MT/hectare)
Commodity Indonesia Vietnam Philippines
Rice (paddy) 5.0 5.2 3.6
Corn 4.2 4.0 2.6
Coconut 6.6 7.9 4.6
We suffer greatly by comparison to Indonesia and Vietnam on our three major crops. In addition, our recent agricultural growth has not kept up with the increased DA budget over the last eight years. From 2005 to 2008, the average DA budget was P19.5 billion. From 2009 to 2012, it was increased by an average of 2.4 times to P46.5 billion. However, despite this huge increase, agricultural growth decreased from an average of 4 percent to 1 percent during these two periods.
It is not easy to turn around a government bureaucracy. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala should therefore be commended for increasing agriculture growth to 2 percent in 2011 and 2012. Nevertheless, this has to significantly increase to meet the official growth target of 4.3 percent to 5.3 percent if we are to address our urgent agriculture development problems.
Recommendations. Our first recommendation is to allow farmers, fisherfolk and agribusiness to actively participate in the plan’s formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The institutional body created by law to do this is the Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AFC), from the national to the barangay level. The AFCs interact with the governors and mayors, who are now primarily responsible for agriculture development under the Local Government Code. The AFCs should therefore be identified and harnessed in the proposed institutional arrangements for the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Plan.
A second key recommendation is to address the smuggling problem.
Much of agriculture support services will be rendered useless if rampant agriculture smuggling continues.
DA may say that curbing smuggling is the job of the Bureau of Customs. We disagree. DA must provide the environment for agricultural growth. DA must fulfill its mandate to promote farmer and fisherfolk welfare by engaging the Bureau of Customs in jointly implementing anti-smuggling measures. This is a scourge that must be stopped.
(The author is chairman of Agriwatch. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail email@example.com or telefax (02) 8522112.)