The Aquino Administration is working to achieve agricultural growth that benefits smallholder farmers and fishers, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said on Monday at the open plenary of the Grow Asia Agriculture Forum at the New World Hotel in Makati City.
“While we are pleased with the achievement of record production in our food staples in the last three years, it is our paramount concern that our farmers and fishers benefit from this growth,” Secretary Alcala said. “This is a sentiment we strongly share and a desired scenario for which we wish to strengthen our partnerships in the ASEAN and with ASEAN partners in the world.”
Secretary Alcala said that critical to boosting food production to meet the requirements of a growing population – be it in the Philippines and the rest of the world – is the support of agri-fishery stakeholder themselves, along with the private sector. He called on greater multistakeholder partnerships across the region to advance “sustainable and inclusive agricultural growth.”
“Governments alone cannot grow Asia agriculture; you are the main players, governments take the support role in this big project,” he told an audience from around Asia and beyond that include government, business and thought leaders from around the region and beyond.
Sharing the country’s best practices, he mentioned the successful implementation of the Sikat Saka farm credit initiative with the LandBank of the Philippines, and the geotagging technology used by the DA-Mindanao Rural Development Program to ensure transparency in monitoring its projects in southern Philippines.
Under the Aquino Administration, harvest of the country’s main staple food reached record levels, boosting sufficiency to 96% by end of 2013, from merely 82% in 2010. Filipino palay farmers produced 18.44 million tons in 2013, up by 2.3% from the previous year, thanks to wider irrigation coverage and increased farmers’ adoption of certified and hybrid seeds. In the first three months of 2014, palay output expanded by 3.28 %, or 4.3 million MT from the 4.17 million MT during the same period last year.
The Department revised the sufficiency target to end of 2015, as part of its centerpiece food security blueprint called Food Staples Sufficiency Program.
Aside from rice, the Philippines is also pushing to achieve full sufficiency in corn, in which it is practically self-sufficient, and other food staples such as rootcrops and plantain.
Farmers and fishers have also been enjoying better profits as farm gate prices and overall output value increase. During the first quarter of the year, Philippine agriculture grossed P386.6 billion at current prices - or up by 10.75 % -- from the same period last year, based on a Philippine Statistical Authority report. While the growth translated to a 0.67% expansion in volume, farmers and fishers, however, reaped higher profits for their work as farm gate prices increased by an average of 10.01% during the period.
The Philippines also managed to able trim its agricultural trade deficit by 60.5% in the first three quarters of last year, as compared to the same period in 2012. From January to September 2013, agri exports surged by 28% while imports fell by 7.2%, resulting in US$1.5 billion in foreign exchange savings.
During that period, the country made several “firsts” in agricultural trade: first-ever export of corn silage to South Korea; premium rice varieties to Dubai, Hong Kong and other markets; and Peking duck to Japan. Last month, the country shipped out several tons of “halal-certified” beef to Brunei. More poultry export is also expected with go-signal given by the South Korean quarantine office for the Filipino fresh frozen chicken exports.
Grow Asia, held for the first time as part of the World Economic Forum that runs through 21-23 May at nearby Shangri-La Hotel Makati, has posed a challenge to all participants: how to grow enough food for everyone in spite of climate change and water challenges, while ensuring food producers get their fair share of the agriculture growth. As envisioned, Grow Asia hopes to be a platform where partnerships between stakeholders can be forged and solutions to challenges to agriculture can be crafted.
Secretary Alcala congratulated the WEF Secretariat for organizing Grow Asia and bringing its inaugural edition in the Philippines. “Let me congratulate the WEF for taking up the challenge of seeking new ways to feed the world,” he said.
“The multi-stakeholder formations that you have nurtured, since the launch of the vision in 2009, has raised commitments to the need to simultaneously deliver food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity, for agriculture to meet the world’s needs sustainably.” ### (Mac Garcia, DA OSEC)