THE WAY FORWARD │ Level Up Philippine Agriculture!

Phl, US to forge stronger agri, trade cooperation

Author: DA Communications Group | 26 April 2021

The Philippines and the United States (US) will continue to strengthen cooperation in their respective agriculture sectors, focusing on food systems transformation through resilient and climate-smart production systems amid the protracted global COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter to US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack, Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William D. Dar mentioned how agricultural innovation plays an essential role in increasing yield and productivity to ensure food security for growing populations and for the prosperity of farmers and fishers.

“With your leadership, we hope to further strengthen collaborative efforts between the Philippines and United States on agricultural trade, technical cooperation, and other partnership opportunities,” said Secretary Dar as he congratulated Vilsack for his appointment as the USDA chief under President Joe Biden.

In response, Secretary Vilsack mentioned how USDA is transforming America’s food system focusing more on resilient local and regional food production and seeking fairer markets for producers while ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities.

“Our goal is to build new markets and streams of income for U.S. and Filipino farmers and producers by using climate-smart food and forestry practices. We are committed to making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural communities and creating equity across the Department,” Vilsack said.

Under the Food for Progress Program, the USDA is supporting two ongoing projects in the Philippines, namely: 1) Philippine Coffee Advancement and Farm Enterprise (PhilCAFE), and 2) Building Safe Agricultural Food Enterprises (B-SAFE).

The PhilCAFE project is an investment in the coffee sector that leverages private and public capital to put the National Coffee Roadmap into action. It aims to increase the production of conventional and specialty coffee, increase coffee exports, and build the capacity and expand service provision of coffee value chain actors.

Meanwhile, the B-Safe project is designed to assist the Government of the Philippines (GOP) and private agricultural enterprises to develop and adopt evidence-based international standards to improve the trade of safe, wholesome food and agricultural products.

Using the accumulated commodity loan proceeds under the United States Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act or Public Law 480 (US PL480) Title 1 program, the Philippines is also implementing a four-year intensified community-based dairy enterprise development” project to accelerate the development of the Philippine dairy industry.

The Department also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the US-ASEAN Business Council to strengthen partnership on livestock production and animal health, agricultural trading and investment, plant science, agricultural technology, and digital agriculture, food safety, and inclusive business and sustainability through training of officials and personnel, extending assistance and expertise of member companies to provide technical support to DA, and joint research initiatives.

“Our agricultural trade relationship is robust. The US is the Philippines’ largest single-country import source of agri-fisheries products in the world and the second-largest destination of our food and agri-fisheries exports. We look forward to further enhancing this agricultural trade relationship,” the DA chief said.

“I look forward to working with you to strengthen trade, cooperation, and understanding between our countries,” the USDA chief replied. Vilsack was recently appointed to serve as the 32nd Secretary of USDA under the Biden-Harris Administration. Like Secretary Dar, Vilsak returned to a role where he first served for eight years under President Barack Obama (2009-2017).

From 2015 to 2019, the top US farm products exported to the Philippines, averaging $2.66 billion (B) a year, included: soybean meal, wheat, dairy products, prepared food, processed vegetables, poultry meat, pork, beef and their respective products, snack foods, and feeds and fodders, among other farm products.

On the other hand, the Philippines exported to the US various agricultural products worth $924 million (M) in 2019, led by: tropical oils ($353 M), processed fruit and vegetables ($165 M), fruit and vegetable juices ($112 M), tree nuts ($92 M), and raw beet and cane sugar ($36 M), according to USDA statistics. ### (Rita dela Cruz, DA StratComms)

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