Agriculture priorities in peril | Inquirer Business

Agriculture priorities in peril

Four out of six agriculture priorities are in peril today. The six were identified by the five coalition heads of the Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA) with President Duterte and Agriculture Secretary William Dar. They both committed to address these six issues, but four have to be addressed immediately.

Agriculture today faces a challenging situation never seen before. Examples are rice farmers losing 30 to 50 percent of their income because of the 35-percent rice tariff with no safeguard provided; poultry raisers’ incomes decreasing by 38 to 46 percent in March and April due to massive importation; 70 percent of hog raisers in Luzon stopping production because of the African swine fever not prevented by adequate quarantine and testing measures; corn farmers selling their corn at P9 a kilo, P3 below their breakeven price, because of the absence of previous support mechanisms, 2 million of the 3 million coconut hectares largely idle because there is no inter cropping, compounded by the three-decade delay in the coconut levy release to the farmers.

For the last nine years, the farm sector’s growth averaged only 1.6 percent compared to industry’s 6.8 percent.


On Nov. 19, AFA heads representing farmers and fisherfolk (Alyansa Agrikultura) agribusiness (Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc.), science and academe (Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines Inc., or CAMP), rural women (Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan), and multisectors (AFA 2025) met with Dar on the six priorities. Taking quick action, Dar created on Dec. 1 a special committee with three undersecretaries to address these priorities. Dar’s directions are the right ones but they are not implemented properly because some elements in the bureaucracy are not following and, sometimes, even sabotaging them. Immediate action should be taken on four priorities in peril.


First, we should know what to do (road maps) and how to do it (management systems). Little work has been done on road maps, with hardly any budget devoted to it. Consequently, prioritized initiatives and efficient resource allocation have suffered. Effective management systems such as ISO 9000 were hardly instituted, with less than 30 percent of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) units having ISO 9000 in 2020 compared to the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) 100 percent in 2010.

Second, lack of private sector participation worsened when the legally mandated Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries budget was cut by 46 percent for 2020. Dar took the initiative of empowering private sector representatives by making them the chairs of DA banner programs. But the bureaucracy is failing him. For example, in the Dec. 10 meeting of the Rice Banner Program, the private sector representative was never invited to participate in rice meetings, disagreed strongly with the meeting agenda given, and manifested his extreme disappointment by refusing to participate. This happened in other instances. One was the request for private sector approval of a budget that they did not get a copy of. Another was the nonconvening of the international trade committee the past year when critical issues were at stake, compared to four meetings in prior years.

Third, the agriculture extension system is ineffective. A study showed that the majority of the 17,000 extension workers devolved to the local government units were not getting the guidance they need. Dar has corrected this with the Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System with technical help from CAMP. But only one province has implemented this. On Dec. 4, Dar instituted nationwide implementation by having one model province in every region.

Fourth, the international trade aspect has been the most damaging. There has been unprecedented damage to our agriculture from unregulated subsidized imports. In the last two weeks, the DA has taken a proactive, rather than a reactive, stance looking at trade remedy measures. This is in addition to the creation of an antismuggling unit, even though smuggling is a Bureau of Customs responsibility. This was accelerated with the recent Senate report that less than 10 percent of the rice smuggling reported by the private sector has been acted upon.

The other two priorities also need significant improvement, but are not as urgent as the four: (1) a significant increase in agriculture credit and insurance, and (2) deep reforms in fisheries, coconut and water management.

The agriculture crisis is not the result of Dar’s directions, but the result of poor implementation by internal forces. We must address these six priorities now, specially the four in peril, if we are to solve the crisis we face today. INQThe author is Agriwatch chair,


former secretary of Presidential programs and Projects, and former undersecretary of the DA and the DTI. Contact [email protected].

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TAGS: Agri-Fisheries Alliance (AFA), Agriculture

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