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The shrimp plan and other road maps

We need road maps to boost agriculture growth. Today, we are hardly growing, we are close to the bottom in the Southeast Asian region.

In 1987, after the Edsa Revolution, we did the first industry road maps covering various subsectors.

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Our investments registered at the Board of Investments, where I was then governor, rose from P3 billion to over P400 billion in three years—all thanks to road maps. These were formulated with significant private sector involvement. Thus, investor confidence increased because there was a clear direction where the industry was heading.

When I was first presented 12 road maps for approval, I requested private sector leaders from relevant subsectors to comment on the accuracy and usefulness of each one. Since 80 percent of them did not agree with the consultants’ output, we withheld payment for the road maps until they were improved.

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Some time ago, I attended a presentation by a group tasked by the Department of Agriculture (DA) to do a subsector road map. Private sector leaders rejected the plan, pointing out inaccuracies. Consequently, the road map was never accepted nor used.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar should be commended for jump-starting discussions on road maps. This fits his goal to include more private sector participation.

On Feb. 11, a road map for the cultivation and production of shrimps was discussed at the weekly meeting of the Management Association of the Philippines-Agribusiness and Countryside Development Foundation.

During the meeting, aquaculture leader Lourdes Tanco presented the following table above.

Tanco said the Philippines could have kept up easily with neighboring countries. It failed to do so because of a missing road map, little government support and misguided regulation.

She said vannamei shrimp, which is much more profitable than monodon, was allowed only in 2007 after a four-year struggle. She said vannamei could churn out profits of P50,000 to P2.2 million per hectare for every harvest. Shrimp farmers can have an average two to four harvests a year. For small farmers, economies of scale and consolidation will definitely and significantly increase their incomes. But the most important element of a road map is its effective implementation, as has been proven by the Department of Trade and Industry. Unfortunately, this is not done systematically at the DA.

Road map formulation and implementation teams are sorely needed not just for shrimp, but for all the basic and promising agriculture sub­­­sectors. We must support Dar’s push for “road map development” and significant private sector involvement.

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Only then can we achieve agriculture growth and no longer remain a disappointing laggard among Southeast Asian nations.

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential programs and projects and former undersecretary of agriculture and trade and industry. Contact him through [email protected]

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