Better Days for Philippine Agriculture
The DA has become more bullish about pushing the development of markets for agribusiness. This has led many to believe that the next three years will be better for Filipino farmers and fisherfolks.
By: Ronald G.Mangubat
Two months ago, DA Secretary Arthur Yap delivered an extemporaneous speech to the farmers and fisherfolks of Florida Blanca, Pampanga during the formal launching of pangasius, the fish from Vietnam which, experts say, could be the next alternative to tilapia and bangus. The speech highlighted the DA’s resolve to fulfill its promise of providing food for every Filipino table by 2010. The following translated the following excerpts of Secretary Yap’s speech would reveal why, despite the current political problems, observers believe, things will turn out better for Philippine agriculture in the next three years. -ED
In celebration of World Food Day, we have always emphasized that food is not a privilege but a basic right. My colleagues have always emphasized the importance of increasing production and yields of our crops and animals. I want to emphasize the importance of markets. As former Secretary Lito Saemiento said awhile ago, we must know our customers. Why? Because there is no money in primary agriculture. Dried palay sells at Php12-Php13 per kilo, but if it is sold as milled rice, it can fetch a price of Php25-Php30. Farmgate prices of tilapia is around Php40-Php50 per kilo, but once it reaches the market , it sells at around Pnp80. The money is in the market.
We have been given funds by the government and our focus is to improve the status of our agriculture (Secretary Yap recently announced that DA is eyeing a Php560-million expansion program for 2008 to increase the production of, and broaden exports for high-value commercial crops. Recently, newspapers reports said President Arroyo released a Php 1 billion fund for hunger mitigation. Among those prioritized to receive the budget are the DA, NFA, NIA, Department of Education and Department of Social Welfare. DA intends to use the funds for its project, food terminals and barangay food outlets, livestock, crops, mangrove and coastal development, irrigation and infrastructure repair). We are an agricultural country. There are 15 million Filipinos who are dependent on farming and fisheries. Our Gross Domestic Product contribution in the country is 20%. If our country is to further develop, it must start from agriculture. But we cannot improve on our agriculture if our farmers are not making profits. That’s why we have five-point program to boost our agricultural yields and make farming more profitable. We have infrastructure projects and we recently increased our funds for irrigation. For fisherfolks in coastal communities, Director Malcolm Sarmiento of BFAR and me are finishing our program for mobile reapers. These are two-tonner mobile refrigeration unitswhich is now in the NEDA-ICT. We are doing this because the capacity to mold a commodity is the capacity to make money. If farmers have no capacity to hold on to their harvest, it is the traders and middlemen who benefit more. So those are our programs-postharvest facilities, storage and the improvement of markets.
We have already installed 10 markets in Metro Manila which is really intended as a “bagsakan” for farmers for fishermen. If you need refrigerated transport, we have the postharvest and research to help you. Farmers can now sell their produce in the Pritil market because the DA leases a space there.
We have an objective for 2010-to put food on the tables and plates of every Filipino. We are doing this with the help of the private sector. That’s why our emphasis right now is in giving marketing support and providing access to markets-both domestic and international. The Department of Agriculture will help you as long as we can keep on producing. We are positive that with your help, we can deliver our promise for 2010!
Marid agribusiness digest
Vol.18* December 2007