Masaganang Agrikultura, Maunlad na Ekonomiya!

Agri sector gears up for food sovereignty  

Author: DA Press Office | 22 March 2022

Agriculture Secretary William Dar called on universities and other academic institutions to support and argue for much-needed substantial budgetary support to the agri-fishery sector in the realization of the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) long-term vision of food sovereignty.

Speaking before scientists, economists, and other agriculture experts at the University of the Philippines Los Banos during the inauguration of joint plant breeding projects, Secretary Dar barred the DA’s vision beyond the near-term goal of food security.

“We can aspire for food sovereignty in three years, once we achieve a food-secure status,” he said. While food security ensures the sufficiency of local food and zero hunger, food sovereignty allows the agricultural sector bigger contributions to the national economy.

The concept departs from very high productivity levels and a more mature sector leading to the control and autonomy of farmers and fishers over the country’s resources and food supply.

At the community level, food sovereignty supports farmers’ and fishers’ agency and rights to the production process, while releasing them from the pressures of feeding hungry Filipinos. Instead, stable and predictable domestic food supply will allow the country to produce more for export, have weightier trade bargaining powers in its economic partnerships, and offer a highly diverse food basket to Filipinos.

“Food sovereignty can only follow from industrialized food systems with the necessary infrastructure already in place,” Secretary Dar added. “That is why the only path to achieving it is higher budgetary priority for agriculture.”

It calls for rich trade and investment activities, and goes hand in hand with tenure security for small-scale producers, agro-ecology, biodiversity, and sustainability among others. Rooted at grassroots food movements, citizens will also be heavily involved in sovereign food systems.

“To accelerate the development and growth of the farming sector, we need to bring Public-Private Partnership — meaning build, operate and transfer — to attract big money from foreign and Filipino investors and the private sector,” Secretary Dar said.

Galvanizing the scientific community 

He emphasized that the Department will require the wealth of knowledge from UPLB scientists, economists, and experts in boosting productivity of commodities including rice, corn, fisheries and mariculture, and high-value crops using the best of science and technology systems. Research output have to be relevant, applicable, and scalable.

During the UPLB visit, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the University of the Philippines in Los Baños (UPLB) led by Chancellor Jose V. Camacho, Jr. signed two separate Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) for collaborative programs, which will support the local production of seeds and biotechnology input, as well as the intensified crop production efforts of the government.

“We welcome this partnership with UPLB because with all the global economic challenges brought by Covid 19 pandemic, compounded with Russia-Ukraine crisis, we need to cushion the effects of these crises,“ Dar said.

He added that the local production remains sufficient.

“Walang pilahan na nangyari dahil merong pagkain from local production and imports in ensuring food security,” Dar said.

He said that with all the challenges that the local agriculture is facing, it is high time for the government to invest so that the country may attain food sovereignty level and not depend heavily on imports.

“Food sovereignty is possible. Dagdagan lang ng budget ay kayang-kaya natin,” Dar said.

The Secretary cited the experience of Bangladesh, which he visited last week, where there is political will from the government to provide bigger budget in agriculture, thereby enabling it to be food sufficient.

“A significant budget will also unlock the potentials of local science and technology, growing side-by-side with research and development,” he said.

Under the MOU, the DA will get the expertise of UPLB through the Institute of Plant Breeding (IPB) for seeds and the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (NIMBB) for biotechnology inputs. These will strengthen the public sector network of government, private sectors, farmers, and other stakeholders to supply the national requirement on seeds and biotechnology inputs, and complement seeds and biotech inputs supply from private company efforts.

UPLB-IPB will undertake programs supporting the production of seeds/scions/stocks for priority crops of assured genetic provenance such as commercial crops (plantation, fruits, vegetables, legumes, rootcrops) and food staples crops (rice, corn, cassava, and adlai).

UPLB-NIMBB, on the other hand, will support the production of biofertilizers, feed ingredients/supplements, probiotics, and other products of biotechnology.

The collaboration aims to support the research for development on seeds technologies and biotechnology, and other related items. ###

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