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Light at tunnel’s end for coconut industry

August 14, 2019 - Wednesday 4:08 AM by Jimmy Laking

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“These reveal expertise and knowledge and were valid issues never touched by his predecessors as agriculture is not all about fertilizer inputs. Agriculture in fact is all about a healthy and sustainable soil.”

 

It looked like a long-delayed comedown from the fence but the Department of Agriculture has finally gone out of its way to spell out what to expect in the homestretch under the Duterte administration.

This came in a statement courtesy of newly-assumed acting Agriculture Secretary William Dar who unveiled an eight-point paradigm that seeks to double the income of farmers and fisherfolk by 2025.

This paradigm, he said, represents the “new thinking” in agriculture and he went at length to explain what they mean and what needs to be done.

As one who cut his teeth on agriculture from my teens upward, I find the points revealing, especially on the factors that compound low income such as low use of inputs, poor soil health and effects of climate change.

These reveal expertise and knowledge and were valid issues never touched by his predecessors as agriculture is not all about fertilizer inputs. Agriculture in fact is all about a healthy and sustainable soil.

It is also my belief that the paradigm on industrialization of agriculture hit the nail exactly on what needed to be done for the coconut industry.

Here is an excerpt of the statement:

 “We must all unite behind President Duterte to find more ways to make smallholder Filipino farmers and fisher folk more prosperous, with the ultimate goal of doubling their incomes in five years.

This will require the development and meaningful implementation of programs and projects that will result in increased agricultural productivity, competitiveness, and profitability taking into account sustainability and resilience for agriculture smallholders. One important law that has to be properly implemented is the Rice Tariffication Law including that of its Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Currently, there are a number of factors causing low farmer and fisherfolk income. Among these are high production cost, limited cropping diversification, low productivity, low-income elasticity and volatile commodity prices. And those challenges are in turn caused or compounded by numerous factors ranging from the low use of inputs, poor soil health, effects of climate change, among others.

To realize the vision of President Duterte for a food-secure Philippines and to double the income of farmers and fisherfolk, I propose a strategy built around eight paradigms that also make up the ‘new thinking’ for agriculture. The eight paradigms are:

  • Modernization of agriculture;

  • Industrialization of agriculture;

  • Promotion of exports;

  • Farm consolidation;

  • Roadmap development;

  • Infrastructure development;

  • Higher budget and investments for agriculture; and

  • Legislative support.”

On industrialization of agriculture, he explained:

“Agriculture must be treated as an industry, with the objective of industrializing the value chain of every agricultural commodity. While productivity increase is a major objective, it is equally important to produce more income by value adding, processing, manufacturing, and developing markets for both raw and processed agricultural products.

There is also a need to engage the private sector in investing and setting up of more agri-based industries in the countryside and developing markets for agriculture products.

Relative to the industrialization of Philippine agriculture is creating the framework for the digitization of farming and agribusiness activities in the country where credit is made available, affordable and accessible.”

If this is implemented in the coconut industry, I think this alone would be enough to help transform overnight a sleepy countryside to a beehive of economic activities. The poor will be still around but they will have considerably shrunk to a manageable level.

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