2 unfinished agri imperatives
The Department of Agriculture (DA) must finish two urgent agriculture imperatives before the current administration’s term ends in June.
Both were highlighted at the five-hour DA budget hearing last September 8. But earlier on April 16, 2016, during a 4:00 meeting in the morning, President Duterte committed to these two imperatives before the five coalition heads of the AgriFisheries Alliance (AFA).
These are good governance initiatives to formulate agriculture road maps (what to do); and the implementation of a management system, which includes ISO 9000 (doing it effectively).
Road maps: The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has consistently said that road maps were needed to justify budget proposals. Agriculture road maps are largely missing. This is probably why the DBM approved only P88.6 billion of the DA’s P231.8-billion budget proposal.
The DA budget, even if combined with the National Irrigation Authority’s, is only 2 percent of the national budget. This is extremely small, compared to Vietnam’s 5 percent to 6 percent and Thailand’s 3 percent to 4 percent. Plus, we are the only country in the region that has a net import of agriculture products, compared to the huge net export of Vietnam and Thailand.
During the May 18-19 National Food Security Summit, Agriculture Secretary William Dar stated that road map formulation would become a top priority. Previously, there was no emphasis or budget allocated for this. This is now changing.
Previous road maps also had major defects: First, they were government-led and emphasized production, to the detriment of market understanding and analysis; and second, there was no public-private sector implementation team.
Consequently, the road maps were hardly used.
Industry road maps, driven primarily by the private sector, don’t have these defects. Note that the industry grew by an annual 6.8-percent average for the nine years before the pandemic, compared to agriculture’s 1.6 percent.
For the agriculture road maps to succeed, firstly there should be a team leader from the private sector. Emphasis should be given to concrete short- and long-term plans. For a one-year detailed short-term plan, this must be approved by both the private sector and the DA.
Management system: The second imperative is to implement an effective management system, including ISO 9000 that the DBM earlier identified as a desirable mechanism.
While at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in the late 1980s, I was primarily responsible for its introduction to the private sector. It was a requirement for most exports to help guarantee product quality and consistency. By 1990, all units at the DTI were already using this. On the other hand, not even half of the DA units have this to this day.
An ISO 9000 is a self-correcting mechanism against corruption. If the documented procedures are strictly followed, it is difficult for corruption to take place.
At the Sept. 8 hearing, a Commission on Audit report on the DA performance for 2020 showed inadequate documentation (with possible corruption) for amounts exceeding P20 billion and unused funds worth more than P10 billion. Though most are probably mistakes, these could have been avoided with an ISO 9000 system implemented nationwide.
In conclusion, Congress must significantly increase the DA budget, which the farmers, fisherfolk and agriculture stakeholders need urgently. In the meantime, the DA must urgently complete the two imperatives to achieve the agriculture objectives of this administration, as well as to lay the solid groundwork for the incoming administration. INQ
The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential programs and projects and former undersecretary of the DA and the DTI. Contact him via [email protected]
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