Wanted: Agri experts, technologists, managers

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A top government official finds it ironic that, although agriculture plays a major part in the country’s economy, the interests of today’s youth lie in anything but farming.

“We realized that most of the youth have no agenda at all to invest their time to study agriculture,” Sugar Regulatory Administration head Ma. Regina Bautista-Martin said.

She said she herself found it hard to fill the job vacancies in her agency, an attached unit of the Department of Agriculture responsible for developing the sugar industry.

The shortage of agriculture experts, sugar operations manager and technologists in the Philippines prompted the SRA to embark on an upbeat campaign: To encourage high school graduates to take agriculture and other related courses.

Last Tuesday, officials of the SRA and the University of the Philippines Los Baños signed a memorandum of understanding for a scholarship study and fellowship program that would start next school year.

Under the program, 15 deserving students will receive scholarships at UPLB to help them pursue courses in agriculture, chemistry and chemical engineering related to sugar technology.

Specifically, the SRA’s financial assistance will cover a scholar’s tuition and miscellaneous expenses. A scholar will also receive a laptop as well as allowances for books, clothing, transportation and subsistence.

Applicants must be natural-born Filipinos with no pending application for immigration to any foreign land, the SRA said.

“We prefer dependents of sugar industry workers, small-scale sugarcane farmers, or students who live in sugar-producing provinces,” Martin says.

The scholarship program has an approved budget of P20 million. The SRA also plans to expand the project to other universities like University of St. La Salle in Bacolod City, and the Central Mindanao University in Mindanao.

“This program is really timely because sugar mills have been having difficulty in engaging [young people] in this kind of profession,” said Jesus Barrera, a miller representative in SRA’s board of director.

Barrera described the program to be “attractive” because students “already have a sure market where they are sought after.”

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