Uplifting Agriculture/New Monetary Board Members

Published August 5, 2020, 10:00 PM

by Flor G. Tarriela

How is agri-business doing during Covid? Is it recovering, profitable and sustainable? How do you scale up? What are the challenges and the opportunities? This was discussed In Go Negosyo’s “Kumitasa AgriNegosyo” with Presidential Adviser (PA) on Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar and DOST Secretary Fortunato  dela Pena.

PA Joey is making sure there’s a good balance between health and the economy. He is passionate to ensure everyone prosper.  “Pilipinas angat lahat” with no let-up in mentoring. Virtual mentoring, he says, has proven to have a wider reach and even more cost effective.

Agriculture, says Sec. Dar, contributes 9% directly and 25% indirectly to GDP or a third of our economy. He started with optimism and positive outlook with the primary goal of food security for every Filipino. Plant Plant Plant, he said, is an encompassing program to include crops, livestock, poultry and fisheries, with 93% rice sufficiency in 2020. He attributed to Go Negosyo and its mentoring program his confidence to introduce more projects in building up the  agri-business ecosystem to unlock agriculture’s potential. Among the many new initiatives in the DA are:

Mobilizing and Nurturing Agripreneurship – MANA from heaven, DA is now granting loans up to P10M for 5 years with no interest for micro and small entrepreneurs. For marginalized small farmers, P25k up to 10 years with no interest;

Kapital Access for Young Agripreneurs – KAYA loans P500k zero interest for millennials;

Mentoring and Attracting Youth in Agribusiness – MAYA for 20 to 30-year-old graduates of 4 year course that will be given 6 month mentorship with P20k allowance.

Business Incubation in Agriculture – BIAG to assist start-ups and struggling MSEs.

Agri-Industrial Business Corridors- ABC. Hub and spokes model. Disperse agri-based industries to regions and decongest Manila.

Secretary de la Pena emphasized that DOST focuses on research and development (R &D) to assist DA and the farmers. There’s much closer collaboration now between DOST and DA and Sec Dar, himself, attends these meetings. R & D benefited farmers such as the improvement on growth of native pigs, chickens and ducks.  Also, the positive effects of soil analysis. DOST also assists in technology business incubation facilities.

With the lockdown, farmers were unable to send their produce to consumers while the end -user market had no access resulting in costly wastage.  Mat Maderazo, President of Planters Products and Cherrie Atillano, Agree President, pivoted their companies to bridge this gap, saving valuable produce from being spoiled.  Data base is very critical says Mat, which was available with Go Negosyo, enabling them to immediately connect with mentees through their field technicians. Mat is now looking forward to the export market such as coco sugar, malunggay powder, banana chips, cocoa, coffee etc.

MoveFood founded by Cherrie in response to Covid challenges was able to bring 174,073 kilos of fruits and vegetables to customers helping 16,732 farmers from ruin. Gigi Morris, President of Moca Farms and a Woman of the Future awardee empowers farmers with training programs even during the lockdown.  Cherrie and Gigi are remarkable women agri leaders with Ginggay Hontiveros, 2019 Global FWN 100 Most Influential Filipina awardee who hosted the event.

In line with strengthening food security, Bruce Tolentino, former Undersecretary of Agriculture has been reappointed to the Monetary Board of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (MB, BSP).  His mission is to deepen and make more inclusive financing for agriculture and rural development.  Also appointed as MB member is Annie Aquino, chief of staff to the Secretary of Finance until her appointment.  I was Citibank’s Chief of Staff for several years and as a former Undersecretary of Finance, I know how demanding and challenging a chief of staff can be, more so to the Secretary of Finance.  Annie, however, seems calm, always smiling and cheerful, ready to be of service. Despite her youthful looks, she has three decades of banking and finance experience having worked here and abroad with local and foreign companies such as Citibank, RCBC and Standard Chartered Bank. Congratulations to MB Bruce and Annie!

It is Secretary Dar’s first anniversary at DA. Aside from his competence, experience, network and being hands on, is his humility and accessibility.  Government and private sector are now working together.  Agriculture has various supports: funding from government i.e. Land Bank etc., training from DA-Agricultural Training Institute and TESDA with Go Negosyo mentoring partnership, as well as research and development withtechnology transfers from DOST. There is also infrastructure and other developments.Farmers feeding the country but unable to feed themselves? That will be a thing of the past, soon.  Agriculture will finally make a difference!


Ms. Flor Gozon Tarriela is chairman of the Philippine National Bank and PNB Capital. She is a former Undersecretary of Finance and the first Filipina vice-president of Citibank N.A.  She is a trustee of FINEX Foundation and FINEX Academy and an Institute of Corporate Directors fellow.

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