Sluggish Agricultural Growth Alarms Drilon
The maxim “two heads are better than one” may not be applicable for the country’s agriculture sector, said Senate President Franklin M. Drilon who reiterated last week his disappointment over the continued decline in the performance of the agriculture sector over the past months.
“I am very alarmed by the dismal figures presented to us by the economic managers insofar as the growth of agriculture sector is concerned,” said Drilon.
“The agriculture sector only grew 0.9 percent in the first quarter of the year, as compared to the 3.2 percent growth registered in the same quarter last 2013, which is still below target,” Drilon pointed out.
“Is the apparent inability of the Department of Agriculture to increase agricultural productivity due to lack of funding or a case of bureaucratic impasse?” asked Drilon.
The Senate leader said, however, that funds for agriculture sector have continuously increased throughout the Aquino administration in an effort to ramp up agricultural productivity.
For 2015, Drilon said, the DA will receive P88.8 billion, 11.1 percent higher than its current level of P80 billion, which shows an increase of 93 percent from its 2010 level of P47.6 billion.
The bulk of the budget, according to Drilon, will be used to build up the country’s agriculture infrastructure.
“For 2015, the government has allotted P25 billion for various irrigation activities, P14.5 billion for the construction of several farm-to-market roads, and P2.2 billion for the promotion of high value crops, P7.0 billion and P2.3 billion for the development of rice and corn industries, respectively,” pointed out Drilon.
“It appears to me that the consistent prioritization given by the administration to the agriculture sector failed to yield good results for our agriculture sector,” said Drilon.
“The dismal performance of the agriculture sector is a valid concern, considering that 11 percent of the economy is contributed by agriculture sector and nearly one-third of the nation’s labor force belongs to the agricultural sector,” he stressed.
“There is a clear downward trend in the agricultural sector, and it further went down to only one percent this year due to the effects of the past calamities,” said Drilon.
The Senate chief also lamented the poor living condition of farmers and fisher folks who remain the poorest sector of the society: “Two-thirds of the poorest sector in the society belongs to agriculture sector which should not be the case now given the huge support continuously by government to agriculture,”
He thus said there is a need to strengthen and address the various issues confronting the agriculture sector.
Earlier, Drilon suggested that the current structure of agriculture department be reviewed.
“I think we really need to have a clear point man and streamline the DA’s bureaucratic system. They have split the agencies into agricultural departments which should be reviewed,” Drilon strongly suggested.
AGRICULTURE SECTOR NEEDS NAT’L SCALE REFORMS TO REVIVE IT
In order to revive the agricultural sector and improve the lives of farmers, there is a need to develop reforms on a national scale and to mount ground level initiatives that benefit the poor, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said Friday night.
“I will not profess expertise in the management of the agriculture sector, but common sense and my 20-year experience as a local executive and the last four years as the second highest official of the land tell me this: while we need to develop and start structural reforms that will benefit agriculture on a national scale, we need to mount ground level initiatives that benefit the poor of our country,” the Vice President said during the awarding ceremony of the Landbank of the Philippines’ 24th Gawad Para Sa Pinakatanging Kooperatiba (PITAK).
Binay said the lackluster performance of the agriculture sector was a “tragedy,” considering the vast scope of the sector, its contribution to the national economy, and the millions of Filipinos depending on agriculture for their livelihood.
“Consider these statistics: in terms of land area, agricultural farms occupy 32 percent of the total land area of the country. From 2004 to 2010, the agricultural sector contributed an average of more than 18 percent to Gross Domestic Product or GDP. Over the same period, exports from the sector rose from $2.5 billion to $4.1 billion,” Binay added.
“In terms of employment, the sector accounts for almost 35 percent of the total workforce. If the whole agriculture value chain were considered, the contribution to GDP and total employment would reach 35 percent and 50 percent, respectively,” he further said.
Binay lamented that despite the agriculture sector’s importance in the economy, “its performance leaves much to be desired.”
“A decade ago, we were a net agricultural exporter. Now, we are a net importer. Before, we were self-sufficient in rice and corn, now we import substantial quantities of these grains,” he said.
“With the fragmentation of our rural lands due to agrarian reform and the failure to provide the necessary support services previously given by landowners, the sector now is dominated by small farmers and fisherfolks. Private investment in agriculture has come in trickles and productivity is very low compared to our ASEAN neighbors,” he said. /MP