Masaganang Agrikultura, Maunlad na Ekonomiya!

PH, France hold agri forum on farm cooperatives, clustering, and consolidation

Author: DA-AFID | 30 March 2023

The Philippine government, through the Department of Agriculture (DA), and the French government, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty and the Bureau of Exportation and International Partnership, organized the 2nd Philippines-France Agriculture Forum on March 28, 2023.

With the theme, “Improving the integration of small-hold farmers and fisherfolks in the global value chain for agricultural commodities through cooperatives, clustering, and consolidation,” the event was led by DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban and French Ambassador to the Philippines H.E Michele Boccoz.

“As one would expect between close allies, I trust our discussions today will be straightforward, useful, and reflective of the genuine friendship between our people,” Undersecretary Panganiban said.

The discussions focused on the basics and nitty-gritty of consolidation and clustering, agri-finance and credit, and management, on-the-ground experience, and mechanization of cooperatives. It also highlighted the big brother/small brother partnership paradigm in the Philippines.

“Today, we reaffirm our centuries-old ties by exploring new ways to enrich cooperation between our countries in this respect,” Undersecretary Panganiban said.

He added that the Philippines is particularly interested in the possibility of widening technical cooperation concerning sustainable development, equitable access to economic opportunities, technology, innovation, the development of human capital, infrastructure, and rural economic policy.

Boccoz, on the other hand, thanked the Philippine government for allowing France to share its experience in developing cooperatives and she committed that France is more than willing to provide some expertise in favor of cooperative development in the Philippines.

“Food security is a priority for all of us around the world. The development of cooperatives in the Philippines could be a new contribution to this goal. This is indeed what we would like to focus upon today,” she said.

The forum speakers include Agricultural Attache to EU Kristine Jeanne Yap, Bureau of Exportation and International Partnership Officer-in-Charge Martin Deruaz, and DA-Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation (F2C2) Program Director Shandy Hubilla.

They were also joined by DA-Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC) Communication and Public Affairs Division Chief Emmalyn Guinto, La Cooperation Agricole International Manager Melanie Pressans, ASEAN Agrifood Counselor Wilfrid Fousse, and CUMA Manager and President Stephane Diard.

Jollibee Group Foundation Senior Program Manager Joanna La’O and Kabisig Savings and Agri-Development Cooperative President Loreto Ramiro also presented the private sector’s perspective during the forum.

“We have a lot to learn on how the French empowered their farmers and fishers to form cooperatives that are now considered large institutions in France with significant voice in the sectoral development and strong presence that consistently attracts investors,” Yap said.

She added that the Philippines aims to “see more agri-fishery cooperatives and clusters gain such a reputation especially as a dependable source of high value exports with economies of scale to make the Philippine products more competitive.”

Assistant Secretary for Policy Research and Development Noel A. Padre also delivered a closing remark, “The integration of smallholder farmers and fisher folks in the global value chain can be hampered by numerous challenges, especially with the rising prices of farm inputs and fuels, and other logistical hindrances.  But it is not an impossibility. It will come to fruition if we actively work together in the development of strategies and paradigm building through knowledge-sharing on cooperative systems is a great starting point.

The Agriculture Forum intends to provide an overview and guide for the Philippines-France joint steering committee meeting regarding collaboration on cooperatives and clustering. ### (Gumamela Celes Bejarin, DA-AFID)

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