Agriculture not involved in employment plan
The agriculture sector was not given its proper involvement and participation in the Employment and Livelihood Summit held from Dec. 1 to 2.
While the summit’s recommendations are indeed valid and praiseworthy, they will be incomplete unless supplemented with the paradigm changing initiatives from agriculture.
The well-crafted, “Trabaho, Negosyo, at Kabuhayan: Blueprint for Employment and Entrepreneurship 2017-2022” should allow for additional agriculture input to enhance job generation.
This will help secure President Duterte’s full support in his desire for poverty reduction and inclusive growth in the countryside.
Again, agriculture was not given its due importance during this recently conducted summit.
The plenary sessions were on manufacturing, construction and services. There was none on agriculture.
The participants included the secretaries and undersecretaries from the Departments of Trade, Labor, Public Works and the National Economic and Development Authority and the Office of the President.
Not even a division chief from the DA was there.
To the credit of Labor Secretary Silvester Bello and Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, and Undersecretary Perry Rodolfo, two critical components were added to the initial employment blueprint.
First, significant additional employment can come from “agriculture and fisheries,” and not just food processing. Second, a large number of jobs can be generated from “identifying profitable agriculture and fisheries products.”
This is beyond just further value adding and processing of our current limited agriculture production.
It is this untapped production potential that will give us the many jobs that we need.
Herein lies the problem. Because of unfortunate faulty communication, only low level officials of the DA responded to the summit invitation.
We were told that the agriculture employment forecast came from a statistics agency, rather than the DA.
If change is coming, a necessary change is for DA to be much more involved in the governance of our economy.
A good sign happened last Dec. 2.
For the first time in three years, DA joined the Departments of Trade and Industry, Finance, and Justice at the public -private National Competitiveness Council’s Anti-smuggling, and Trade Facilitation Committee meeting.
DA proposed significant measures to curb rampant smuggling that is going on today.
DA must likewise be involved in critical economic issues like our nation’s employment blueprint.
For example, two of our three million coconut hectares are practically idle because of no intercropping between the trees.
Intercropping in this coconut area alone can yield at least two million jobs. Incomes will also rise.
The P20,000 net income per hectare from copra can increase to P130,000 per hectare from intercropping cacao alone.
Adding more crops can further raise this to P250,000, and add needed jobs as well.
Since the recently concluded summit used a forecast from a statistics agency and not from DA, it missed the many paradigm-changing initiatives Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol is now undertaking.
For example, Piñol has convinced big buyers currently importing onions to buy from local onion farmers.
This increases the number of jobs from agriculture.
If DA now draws up a list of all imported agriculture products and embarks on the program that will allow our farmers to replace these products with competitive offerings, agriculture jobs will further increase.
Food processors are complaining they do not have enough agriculture produce to process. Farmers are complaining that they do not know what to produce because they do not know where the processing plants and markets are.
With Secretary Piñol’s paradigm shift of not only value adding but also linking producers to markets, more production will be the result.
The consequence: More jobs.
The last summit was spearheaded by DTI and DOLE. If the DA can conduct an agriculture summit, then programs for additional jobs and increased incomes can be launched, thus decreasing rural poverty and achieving inclusive growth.
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