PH looks to revitalize agri to power economy
To reverse the dismal performance of the “laggard” agriculture sector and temper high food prices, the economic team wants to extend greater financial support to farmers and fisherfolk, according to Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno.
“Had the agriculture sector grown at its potential of 4 percent in 2018, full-year economic growth would have reached 6.5 percent, equal to the low-end of our revised growth target last year,” Diokno said in a statement. He said the sector contributed a mere 0.1 percentage point to the full-year growth rate of 6.2 percent.
“Simply put, the farm sector had virtually zero contribution to economic growth last year,” Diokno added.
He said it was high time the government prioritized the agriculture sector.
“For our farmers and fisherfolk in the rural areas, higher productivity will mean higher incomes. At the same time, for consumers, this means lower prices for staple food items like rice, vegetables, fish and meat,” the budget chief added.
Last year’s high inflation episode was partly caused by the shortage in food supply, especially of rice.
During last week’s meeting, the Duterte Cabinet discussed measures to pump up agriculture—for instance, the state-run Land Bank of the Philippines would look into giving small farmers better access to credit and loan facilities.
Also, the budget chief said the economic team was working with the departments of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform to put the farm sector “in a more sustainable and less volatile growth trajectory.”
The Department of Budget of Management (DBM) is now reviewing a number of studies made by agriculture experts in order to enhance farm sector resource allocation, according to Diokno.
“One recommendation by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, for instance, is to direct more resources in improving supply-chain connectivity (such as farm-to-market roads and other infrastructure) and focusing on agricultural research and extension services. This leads to long-term productivity gains as opposed to emphasizing input subsidies [such as fertilizers and seeds],” Diokno said.
“This will take a holistic approach, both in policy formulation and program implementation. Rest assured that the DBM will continue to play its part in ensuring that resources are allocated to most beneficial and most efficient purposes,” Diokno said.
“[Agri] has consistently grown at rates lower than overall economic growth, and has failed to reach its potential economic contribution despite the great number of people the agriculture sector employs. This is bad news because the poor are concentrated in rural areas where agriculture is the primary livelihood. Clearly, inadequate policies, vulnerability to natural hazards, and bureaucratic mismanagement all had a hand in the sluggish performance of the agriculture sector throughout the years,” Diokno said.