Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Food Summits May Hold Answers to Low Farm Productivity By Ernesto T. Solidum

Food Summits May Hold
Answers to Low Farm Productivity

In a press conference at Café Latte, Andagao, Kalibo on July 17, 2015 Cong. Ted Haresco Jr. wass overwhelmed by runaway success of the just concluded First Aklan Investment Forum. The total commitment and pledges from private and foreign investors stands at P20 billion. NEDA has documented the proceedings of the whole day session that dealt on power, commerce and industry, banking and finance, infra, agriculture and tourism.

Gov. Joeben T. Miraflores said that investment climate in Aklan is conducive due to excellent peace and order, stability both in politics and governance and tourism infra. During the 1980’s we started with construction of Jetty Ports in Caticlan and Cagban, Malay; expansions and modernizations of Kalibo International Airport and Caticlan International Airport (under PPP); Kalibo circumferential road and 4 lane Kalibo to Caticlan Philippine Nautical Highway. We have a number of high end hotels and resorts in Boracay and significant tourism investment in Buruanga, mainland Malay, Nabas and Tangalan. Actually the SP legislation on Private Public Partnership (PPP) enacted on April 15, 2015 will usher in strong motivation to invest because of cost sharing, credit enhancement, guarantees, subsidies and equities favorable to would be investors.

The best is yet to come, a positive appraisal of Vice Gov. Billie Calizo-Quimpo after hearing the report of initial pledges. This is a new dawn for Aklan to improve its socio-economic standing and preparedness in the Asean Integration.

However, there is a snag in the overall rosy picture. Our agri-fisheries sector is left out in the cold. With the average GDP growth of 1.78 per cent since 2010, two-thirds of the farming population are deeply mired in poverty. Aklan’s share in upscale Boracay market is minimal: 7 per cent in fruits and vegetables and 37 per cent in poultry and livestock. Aklanons have comparative advantage to supply the demand of hotels and resorts but sadly the opportunity has remained open.

What indeed is the root cause? Is the reason economics?, financial?, technical?, attitudinal? or all of the above?

This can only be fully evaluated if a food summit is organized by the Provincial Government in cooperation with non-government organizations like the Farmers’ Cooperative, Irrigators’ Association, Fisherfolks Organization, and ARC’s. Consultants and reactors would be representatives from LBP, DBP, OPA, NFA, DAR, DA-ATI, BFAR, BAI and ASU.

Agriculture provides one third of the total labor force. It contributes 11 per cent to GDP. With population growth of 1.9 per cent, DA targets 4.3 to 5.3 percent per year increase. However budget for agriculture corresponds only to 2.5 percent where the optimum recommendation of Food and Agriculture Organization is 7 percent. This skewed allocation of public funds directly affects 30 million Philippine farmers.

Taking advantage of recurrent food deficit smugglers have a heyday. According to UN Trade Statistics the government lost P37 billion in tariff in 2014 at the Bureau of Customs. This consists of 721, 018 MTs of sack worth P21.6 billion, chicken-P1.9 billion, Buffalo meat-P1.05 billion, onions-P113.5 million and garlic-P3.99 billion.

Vice Governor Quimpo is aware of DA’s distribution of agricultural machineries in Aklan such as irrigation pumps-28 units in February 2015 for battling El Nino, hand tractors, threshers in the wake of super typhoon Yolanda. During Gobyerno sa Barangay sorties in different towns the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist has distributed thousands of packs of vegetable seeds and planting materials such as mango, and jackfruit. Marine fish sanctuaries are established and maintained by LGU’s in Buruanga, Malay, Nabas, Ibajay, Tangalan and Batan. But we really don’t know the result of this economic amelioration program. At any rate, we expect to have the answers during the Food Summit straight from the horses’ mouth so to speak.

Inclusive growth must be the prime consideration for present and future investments. This is because at the heart of success is the full development of man himself. /MP

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