THE WAY FORWARD │ Level Up Philippine Agriculture!

Amid “perfect storm,” DA remains focused, eyeing opportunities for innovation and transformation

Author: DA Communications Group | 26 April 2021

Despite no respite from the rage of the so-called “perfect storm,” the Department of Agriculture (DA) remains undaunted by the challenges confronting the farm and fishery sector, staying focused believing that the current crisis also presents opportunities for innovation, transformation, and regeneration.

In his presentation during the Economic and Infrastructure Development Clusters’ pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) forum, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that the country’s agriculture sector has remained resilient as the farm and fishery industries persevered and innovated to hurdle challenges brought about by natural calamities, animal diseases, and the global pandemic.

“Agriculture was so made that a crisis always turns out as an opportunity for renewal. God designed it that way – crops will ripen, be harvested and die, but tomorrow will be another occasion for planting, recovery and renewal,” said the DA chief.

Barring any major natural calamities, he said the agriculture sector is expected to grow 2.5 percent (%) this year, on the back of stronger production in major agricultural commodities, such as rice, corn, coconut, fisheries, poultry and high-value crops. These commodities comprise more than 70% of the country’s agricultural GVA.

“Recognizing the strategic importance of the above food commodities, we have implemented a number of measures to boost their productivity,” he said.

“For rice, we expect to produce another record harvest of 20.4 million metric tons (MMT), surpassing last year’s record yield of 19.44 MMT. This is equivalent to 93 adequacy, thanks to the fast-tracked implementation of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), as mandated by the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), complemented by our initiatives under the Philippine Integrated Rice Program,” the DA chief added.

“Under the RTL, we were able to accelerate the delivery of much-awaited assistance under the RCEF,” he said.

“Similarly, we would like to note with pride that even at the height of the pandemic last year, coinciding with the lean months of palay harvest, the country never experienced ‘pila’ or rice queues,” he added.

On the livestock, poultry, and corn subsector, he said it was affected by the pandemic, with the closures of many fast-food chains, restaurants, street food operations, etc.

Despite this, he said “we have seen growth in our corn productivity as the DA ramped up assistance to farmers through our National Corn Program. The poultry industry also showed signs of revival with the gradual opening of the economy and the shift of consumers to chicken spurred by rising pork prices.”

However, he said that it is in the hog subsector the DA is encountering difficulty, as the outbreak of the African Swine Fever (ASF) caused a supply shortfall.

To arrest the upsurge in pork prices, the DA is hopeful that the increase in the MAV in-quota allocation and the lowering of tariffs for pork imports will make their intended dampening effect.

“Just like in the RTL, we are certain that our policy prescription on the matter is sound, as it is meant to attain ‘the greatest good for the greatest number of our people’,” he said.

“Nevertheless, we are implementing several measures to check the spread of ASF and promote the repopulation and recovery of our local hog industry,” he said.

“I am happy to note that the incidence of ASF outbreak has gone down from 4,060 cases in the third quarter of 2020 to only 981 in the first quarter of 2021. We have also linked with several companies to undertake trial tests of ASF vaccines in the country, one of which is the Zoetis Inc., the largest producer of medicine and vaccination for pets and livestock,” he added.

On fishery, he said the DA through its fishery agencies, led by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), will pursue productivity programs to increase the subsector’s contribution to agricultural GVA, which averaged at less than 20% in the last decade. This is primarily a product of the degradation and exhaustion of coastal fisheries resources and the inability to attract significant investments in fisheries ventures due to the uncertain policy environment.

He said the DA-BFAR will put up fishery hubs with landing sites and storage facilities in various areas of the country with substantial fish catch.

“As in our previous experience in the development of the Navotas and General Santos fish landing ports, infrastructure investments will promote their full development as fishery hubs,” he said.

In terms of current supply, he said “there is enough supply of fish in the immediate and short-term outlook, resulting in more stable prices at retail markets.”

On the coconut sector, he said “we expect a dramatic rebound and develop the ‘sleeping giant,’ thanks to the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Law or Republic Act No. 11524, that was recently signed by President Duterte.”

He said the DA through the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) will pursue various RA 11524 mandated programs to increase the subsector’s contribution of only four percent to total agricultural GVA, in the last decades, despite being the country’s top farm export and dollar-earner. He said the coconut industry development plan being formulated by the DA-PCA will be vigorously pursued to increase significantly the subsector’s contribution to agricultural GVA. Given that coconut is planted to more than 3 million hectares, he said it should be contributing at least 10 percent to agricultural GVA surpassing that of banana, which is planted to only around 200,000 hectares.

Finally, he said the DA will continue to implement the “Plant, Plant, Plant” program to put more farm and fishery products, particularly vegetables, on the tables of consumers through the “Urban Agriculture” and “Community Food Self-sufficiency” initiatives, wherein partners like farmers’ groups, LGUs, church groups and NGOs, are encouraged to plant vegetables in their backyards or vacant lots.

“We are glad that our efforts are paying off — as vegetables are in ample supply in the market and can be bought at stable prices. We intend to continue this program as it does not only provide the food requirement of our people, but also ensures a nutritious and balanced diet,” he added.

For the future Philippine agriculture, Secretary Dar believes that its transformation must be towards having healthier people, healthier economy and healthier planet.

“The OneDA approach that we unveiled, with its four pillars of consolidation, modernization, industrialization and professionalism, will ensure that our envisioned goal for the sector will be attained,” he said.

He added that the pandemic highlighted several opportunities for the agriculture sector, such as:

  • The role of technology in boosting productivity (i.e., digital agriculture and e-commerce);
  • Pouring more investments in the agriculture and fishery sector by both government and private sector;
  • Improving logistics in agriculture through digital technology and greater coordination with the LGUs; and
  • Promoting “smart agriculture, fishery, and forestry” sector to improve the connective links of agri-based supply chains and introduce the circular economy approach.

“In all, we should innovate to ensure adequate supply of food at affordable prices. The food security imperative revolves around increasing our farm productivity to guarantee adequate food supply. However, the availability of food at affordable prices to our consumers, particularly the poor, completes the equation,” he concluded. ### (DA StratComms)

Back to Archives