Agricultural Challenges

The Philippines has been faced with daunting and overwhelming problems in the agricultural sector. The growth in farm productivity over the past decade has been stagnant and even declining. Taking the year 1990 as base year, overall productivity has grown at barely 1 percent per year. In contrast, the agricultural sectors of Vietnam and Thailand have zoomed upward in growth by at least 6-8 percent per year. Likewise, the Philippine population has grown faster than agricultural production, while our agricultural land has declined due to increasing urbanization.

The twin pressures of rapid population growth and stagnant productivity have forced the country to import large amounts of agricultural products especially rice. Over the past decade, rice imports of the country averaged about 15 percent of the total consumption per year. Ironically, however, despite the heavy rice importations, prices faced by the average Filipino households are about doubled when compared to what Vietnamese households are paying.

The scenario of the El Niño phenomenon is also hovering over the Philippine agriculture sector. However, unlike in the previous occurrence where the country was caught flat-footed, the government is now ready to counter its effects, it has allotted a huge amount of P1 billion in order to fund the necessary migrating measures to cushion the impact of El Niño.

2001 Agricultural Performance

Last year, statistics would show that the country experienced a slight boom in the agricultural sector. Agriculture registered a growth rate of 3.9 percent in 2001. In addition to fine weather conditions experienced in the country last year, agricultural experts attributed the improvements in agricultural performance to the following factors:

  • Expansion of area harvested as a result of more irrigation facilities;
  • Use of certified seeds in palay production;
  • Use of high yielding varieties and crop shifting from corn and rubber to sugarcane, especially in Northern Mindanao;
  • Additional bearing trees and plants, increased area harvested, early control of pests and diseases, timely application of fertilizer and pesticides;
  • Increased live inventories of finishers in hog farms;
  • Expansion in the number of animal stocks for dairy production;
  • The rehabilitation of fish sanctuaries and the strict implementation of fishery laws; and
  • Increased harvest in plantation forests.

Agricultural Modernization : Key To Improve Production

Republic Act 8435 otherwise know as the Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) is the codified mandate on which the vision and goals of agricultural modernization was anchored. The AFMA establishes the mechanisms and strategies for the more efficient use of available resources. It also emphasizes the primacy of private enterprises in agricultural modernization and growth. With AFMA, it is mandated that public investments in support of productive enterprises should be concentrated in the selected Strategic Agricultural and Fisheries Development Zones (SAFDZs). The law also sets forth the identification of "centers of excellence" that will be the focus of support for world-class agricultural education and research. It also outlines the priorities in public investments - principally communal irrigation, operated and sustained through collaboration between irrigator's associations and local government units. Another efficiency-boosting strategy enshrined in the law is the empowerment of the civil society groups and the local government units (LGU's) to provide area-specific extension services.

AFMA places production technology at the heart of the government's drive toward revitalized agricultural and rural growth. Hence, AFMA requires maximized investments in research and development in order to capitalize on the benefits of the latest and more productive advances in productive technologies.

As defined in the law, TESDA Is specifically mandated to provide agri-fishery skills training programs for farmers and fisherfolks.

In sum, AFMA sale the overall framework by which the Philippines shall achieve sustainable food security and a modernized agriculture through revitalized productivity, more efficient deployment of resources and genuine partnerships between the government and the private sector.

Public-Private Sector Partnership : Vital Cog In Agricultural Success

In a speech delivered by Sec. Montemayor before the members of the Makati Business Club, he said that sustained agriculture performance depends a lot on strong government-prlvate sector partnership. He mentioned that there are several areas of collaboration that could be done. One area would be in agri-business. He exhorted the businessmen to increase their investments in the countryside. This would mean additional jobs in the rural areas and would redound to increase economic activity in the area,

He stressed that there are lots of business opportunities available in the agri-fishery sector. The Secretary said that farming and fishery, being a business by itself offers business opportunities in various areas: contracting, procurement end services, hydrological assessment, mapping, engineering supervision, monitoring, design, technical training, construction of farm-to-market roads and irrigation facilities management and user training In the field of agri-business, opportunities would be in the sales and provision of seeds, feeds, breeds, chemicals, fertilizer and pesticides, construction materials, pumps, hoses, motors, fuel, farm tools and machineries, among others.

Being a pioneer in the formulation of contract growing arrangements specially in specific agricultural crops and poultry, he asked the private sector to explore the possibility of doing similar ventures in other crops and livestock. Some of the partnership arrangements currently being implemented by the private sector is the production of high-value crops in Bukidnon, South Cotabato, Ilocos Norte, Pangasinan, Bulacan Mindoro and Laguna.

Another area of concern where collaboration between the public and private sector is in the area of productive technology and extension. At times, outputs of public research and development system cannot uncover and bring to commercial success the best in technology. Thus, joint ventures or even private investments would be needed in research and development especially in the conduct of technology research that would generate public benefits.

Of course, the private sector inputs would be very vital in shaping up and implementing both domestic and global agricultural policy. Admittedly, with the advent of globalization and trade liberalization we must trade and exchange with the rest of the world. The Philippines could not avoid the ebbs one flows of international currencies and commerce. Though we face huge markets for high value commodities like meat, horticulture aquaculture, and processed agricultural products, we face stiff competition to our traditional commodities like rice, corn, sugar and coconut. How the Philippines could take advantage of international opportunities and at the same time assist in the transition of traditional crops to more profitable ventures apart from shielding the farming sector from more harm would entail the active participation of the private sector. In summary despite the challenges facing the agricultural sector, agriculture officials are upbeat that robust growth would still be achieved in the current year. There are lots of opportunities that need to be tapped in the agri-fishery sector that would help in job creation and definitely would have a dent on TESDA's skills training programs, Just like in the other sectors, private sector participation would be vital In the success of sustained agricultural productivity.