outbrain
Close  
Commentary

Prerequisites for meaningful agriculture growth

Two things are needed before we can achieve significant agriculture growth: a po­licy to identify agriculture as one of the top two priorities to survive and grow during this COVID-19 crisis (the other being construction) and the inclusion of private sector mechanisms to support Agriculture Secretary William Dar in his agriculture mandate.

Agriculture has grown by an average of 1.6 percent from 2011 to 2017, then 0.6 percent and 0.7 percent in the following two years. This disappointing performance has been caused partly by a poor understanding of Philippine agriculture in the global context.

ADVERTISEMENT

On June 22, the heads of 48 agri-based organizations issued a statement decrying faulty government direction. Coordinated by chair Gregorio San Diego, Jr. and president Elias Jose Inciong of the United Broiler Raisers Association, it said in part: “The government acts with alacrity when supply is short by resorting to importation …The DA through the Bureau of Animal Industry, like all the past administrations, has again invoked our WTO (Wprld Trade Organization) commitments to feign helplessness.”

Because the DA has not given enough attention to international agriculture trade, we have not used the creative strategies of other countries to support their farmers. The DA does not have the competently formulated road maps and management systems in the way the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has. The consequence is agriculture growth lagging significantly behind industry’s.

FEATURED STORIES

In addition, agriculture smuggling in cases like rice, poultry and livestock is rampant. This is again partly because DA does not have the access to international data that the DTI has. If you take the export volume of products reported by the exporting countries and compare that to the volume recorded as our import volume by the Bureau of Customs, the discrepancy is due to outright or technical smuggling. This results in lost jobs and income for our agriculture stakeholders.

In the area of agriculture mechanisms to support Dar, the glaring gap is the inadequate role of the private sector in governance. This is happening in spite of Dar’s advocacy for more private sector involvement.

Ironically, the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries Council, which institutionalizes private sector participation in governance through the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (Afma), or Republic Act No. 8435, got a 50-percent budget cut for this year. Worse, critical private sector committees like international trade, climate change, mechanization, budget review and monitoring, as well as several key commodity cluster groups were abolished.

These public-private committees, chaired by an elected private sector representative, meet regularly every quarter. Private sector participation includes farmers, fisherfolk, food processors, traders, consumers, and other agriculture stakehol­ders. Ever since these committees were terminated last Jan. 27, former committee members have been uninformed on critical events in their respective areas.

These committees make policy and program recommendations, suggest resource allocations and monitor budgets. This important role has disappeared. The largely underutilized provincial and municipal agriculture and fisheries councils, similarly mandated by the same Afma law to perform similar functions, should now be reenergized. It is at the local level where agriculture policies and programs can be made most suitable to actual community needs, and budgets best utilized and monitored.

Because of COVID-19, it is specially important now that these local councils be empowered to help reinvent the new agriculture approaches needed to address our crisis. But certain selfish forces still inside the DA are stopping Dar from fully reali­zing his private sector advocacy.

These are rapidly changing and challenging times. Dar must be supported fully by a government that makes agriculture a top priority for us to recover and grow. In addition, strong private sector mechanisms should be put in place to support agriculture policies and programs, needed now more than ever. With these two prerequisites met, we can achieve a more significant agriculture growth.

ADVERTISEMENT

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of Presidential Programs and Projects, and former undersecretary of the DA and DTI. Contact is [email protected]

Subscribe to Inquirer Business Newsletter
Read Next
EDITORS' PICK
MOST READ
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: agriculture growth, agriwatch
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.


© Copyright 1997-2020 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.