MANILA, Philippines—The government must undertake agriculture programs designed to boost incomes, especially for small farmers, according to the country’s chief economist.
“We need to know that our national programs are achieving their intended objectives,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said in a text message.
Specifically, the government needs to boost productivity and raise farm incomes, especially those of small farmers and landless workers, to make a big dent on poverty reduction in rural areas where two of three poor Filipinos are located, said Balisacan, who is also director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
“This will require investment in long-term sources of growth, such as rural road infrastructure, irrigation, research and development, security of land rights and tenure, as well as improving the access of farmers to credit and the global or national supply chains,” Balisacan said.
Neda also wants the National Food Authority (NFA) to beef up its rice buffer stock for emergency purposes and to focus its interventions and programs in areas that will enhance efficiency in the production, marketing, and trade of rice, said Balisacan.
Food security, he added, “is not just guaranteeing availability of food at the national level but, more importantly, ensuring that food is accessible for all through low prices and improved purchasing power of buyers, including millions of small farmers who are net buyers of food.”
Balicasan stressed that investment in infrastructure is crucial. Roads and bridges help improve the mobility of people, goods, and services, thereby reducing the cost of doing business in rural areas.
“We must also increase the sector’s resilience to climate change risk, and enhance the policy environment and governance through convergence of rural development agencies and through public-private partnerships in infrastructure and value chain development,” he said.
Earlier, the Neda tackled the issue of underemployment in the agriculture sector. The agency said the problem could be addressed by increasing effective demand for agricultural output.
“This can be done by developing more by-products from the same agricultural output, or further processing the output so that it can be sold in urban areas,” he said.
A storm in December 2012 led to lost employment opportunities in agriculture, said Balisacan, but employment gains in the services and industry sectors more than made up for that loss.
The total number of employed Filipinos grew by 1.6 percent to 37.9 million from a year ago, led by the services and industry sectors, according to National Statistics data.
“We recognize that the agricultural sector is a major challenge in Philippine economic development. Its potential as a growth driver … is not being maximized,” Balicasan said.