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Urgent need for effective agriculture roadmaps

With our agriculture in crisis and the dangerous environment created by COVID-19, it is urgent that our agriculture roadmaps with their inadequate formulation and implementation be addressed immediately.

On his first day in office on Aug. 5, 2018, Agriculture Secretary William Dar recognized this deficiency. He announced roadmap development as one of the eight paradigms in his “new thinking” for agriculture. He said: “The roadmap should actively involve the private sector. It should have a value-chain approach to level up Philippine agriculture, while making sure the small holders get a fair share along the value chain.”

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The majority at the Department of Agriculture (DA) is made up of very competent and committed people. Unfortunately, some officials have not been following Dar’s roadmap paradigm. Only one commodity roadmap (the prior version was done 10 years ago) has been completed. However, private sector leaders do not believe the last version is useful. This is because they were not sufficiently involved in the roadmap formulation, as Dar had instructed.

At the Department of Trade and Industry, the private sector leads the roadmap formulation, with the government guiding them. Together, there is public-private approval and commitment. In addition, there is a dedicated public-private roadmap team that monitors roadmap implementation and recommends improvements as new conditions arise. So aside from talk, there is also action.

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The DA should follow this procedure, which more closely adheres to Dar’s direction of private sector involvement. Since there was no guiding outline for the agriculture roadmaps, the five-coalition Agrifisheries Alliance (AFA) recommended one. It is a summarized consolidation of the DTI roadmap outline that is used by DA for some sectors. DA approved this outline as a guide to follow.

It contains the following key elements: 1. Objectives; 2. Industry Situation; 3. Analysis of farm income, supply/ value chain; competition and comparative advantage in both the local and global dimensions; (4) market trends and prospects; (5) strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT); (6) target-setting, and most important, (8)recommended policies, strategies and programs, with accompanying Key Result Areas (KRAS) and Key Performance Indicators (KPI).

Added to this is an appendix for roadmap Implementation. This is absolutely essential. It is a work plan that identifies the key issues in priority order. For each issue, there are budgets, timetables, and accountable officials.

Given the uncertainty of the pandemic, the urgency of action needed, and the limited resources, the Pareto Principle should be used. The Dec. 25, 2020 Investopedia definition states: “The Pareto Principle specifies that 80 percent of the consequences come from 20 percent of the causes.” When an urgent situation arises, several managers desire a complete 100 percent analysis before they take action. This often ends in too late a response and dismal failure. Often, addressing 20 percent of the most critical factors is enough to make urgent decisions that will yield desirable results. This is what we need today, before our agriculture deteriorates further. In addition, we have to form the public-private sector roadmap implementation teams to contribute to roadmap formulation, which they are responsible for in the execution phase.

It has been one year and five months since Dar directed the development of a roadmap. But too little has been done. Our time is running out. The essential 20 percent needed for roadmap formulation should be identified and the appendix specifying key issues and proposed actions decided within three months. It will be adjusted and improved until a 100 percent completion is attained.

Meanwhile, we must immediately take the action needed to avert the worsening of our agriculture crisis. The DA Banner Program directors with their counterpart private sector chairs from the Philippine Council of Agriculture and Food (PCAF) can help start this process with agreed priority actions before it is too late. Only then can we see true agriculture development take place in the midst of this pandemic.

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TAGS: Department of Agriculture, Pareto Principle
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