Sunday, August 31, 2014

Agricultural Challenges And Right Direction

Agricultural Challenges 
And Right Direction
by Delano T. Tefora

Today, our nation’s food and agriculture system are being influenced by many forces. They shape the Philippine economy in the general-globalization of markets, advances in technology, changing global climate and modern science. Previous years in review, several tropical cyclones and earthquakes battered the country leaving P100 billion worth of damages to the agri-fishery sector counted in terms of harvest losses and infrastructure destructions. Billions of pesos went to the pork scams made by government officials and leaders.

The road to food security, improved productivity, sustained growth and modernization are facing different challenges and threats. We need to confront an integrated global economy, climate change, more volatile markets for food, and thieves in government.

To brace the country against the adverse effects of climate change, adaptation and mitigation measures must be undertaken by the Department of Agriculture (DA) in cooperation with the LGU’s. This would include soil and water conservation, farming techniques, organic-basic farming, watershed management, improved rice cultivation technique, development of drought and submergence-tolerant rice varieties, livestock manure management to reduce methane emission, and recycling and waste minimization. Intensive advocacy and information dissemination must be done to enable planners policy makers and the management to minimize negative effects of these adverse natural phenomenon. 

The World Trade Organization (WTO) has challenged agriculture and fisheries sector in global trading order. Tariffs of all products will be brought down from five to zero percent except for certain sensitive agriculture products such as rice, sugar, corn, and meats. In 2012, WTO special treatment on rice lapsed. This means the rice market will be liberalized. Thus, Rice Self-sufficiency Plan should be fully supported by providing the annual budgetary requirement of the plan to compete with rice producers abroad.

To date, pork scams came to reality. Lot of project targets were in the plan, national and local, but nowhere to be found. The local government annual budget for agri-fishery is only about 10 percent of the total budget as outlined in the approved annual budget.

President P-noy is very much vocal of his commitment “Sa Tuwid Na Landas” but under this globalized trading regime, the DA must be well-equiped to protect its borders against any calamity. Regulatory services must be strengthened not only in human capital but also in terms of facilities. DA needs to harmonize inter-government policies and product-standard; logical support to lower input and transaction cost; and optimize world market opportunities. A Rice Smuggler come in connivance with our government authorities, where no one could be pinpointed as mastermind.

To recall the farewell message of former DA secretary Arthur Yap delivered during the Philippine Association of Provincial and City Agriculturists, Inc. conference, he outlined the challenges for that year and beyond. Agriculture development and modernization are endeavors that must be continuously and vigorously pursued. Yap highly recommended to the next stewards of the DA at the time to support the following:

Implement a long term national food security strategy, food security that requires forward analysis and planning, decision on national priorities on the use of scarce natural resources from both domestic and foreign. Food security must be done in coordination with other agencies and harmonize policies and priorities;

Development of United and Enterprise Geospatial Information System to enhance the capability of DA in planning and implementation of programs and projects in Strategic Agriculture and Fisheries Development Zones.

Hasten the organization and implementation of the DA National Information Network in response to the urgent needs of the various agri-fishery stakeholders by providing technical assistance and market linkages on real time. 

Strengthen Regulatory Capabilities by the continuous development of science based mechanism that will protect both the producer and consumer against unfair trade practices. This will need modern equipment and continuous training of personnel, including the professionalization and the development of a regulatory and quarantine training curriculum within the DA in cooperation with State Universities and Colleges.

Push for the implementation of the Rationalization Plan as well as filing up the vacant positions of operating units which are depleted of manpower to ensure a more effective and efficient use of human and financial resources.

Develop greater and strong DA-LGU Partnership and Collaboration to fuel the creation and enhancement of more responsive development plans, improved and more effective extension programs, and increased funding through counter-parting.

Strengthen Farmers Organizations and Cooperative for Rural-Based Value-Adding Enterprises as this activity will help create stable jobs, attract much needed investments and reduce poverty and hunger. 

Strengthen and Accelerate Human Resource Development Programs in the Agriculture and fisheries to nurture self-reliant farmers, those with management and decision-making skills to adapt with the changing production environments and market opportunities.

Accelerate Farm Mechanization to provide essential material basis for agri-fishery modernization. The application of farm machineries allows faster land preparation, fast harvesting and reduce post harvest losses.

Accelerate Implementation of Programs to Mitigate Impact of Climate Change-including the establishment of a buffer stock of quality seeds, conduct of research in rainwater harvesting, organic farming, balanced fertilization, and revival of degraded soils and promotion of science-based technologies to protect plants and animals against pest and diseases-including the enhancement of the agricultural insurance program by introducing weather index-based crop insurance and aquaculture/fisheries insurance to cover more farmer/fisher-beneficiaries aimed to ensure sustained food production throughout the agricultural system.

Continue the success of the National Organic Agriculture program so as to reduce the farmers’ dependent on inorganic fertilizer and ensure healthy and all natural produce.

Former DA Secretary Yap said: “While no generation, in the past several decades has never  face such immense challenges as we do today, no other generation has ever been so worthy and prepared to seize opportunities and prevail as ours.” 

Is our country really poor as they always reason out of no funds available but of billions pesos lost in the coffers? /MP

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