DA must have concrete actions to boost PH agri sector

Published January 5, 2021, 3:30 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

After an “unexpectedly challenging year” for the Philippine agriculture sector, the Department of Agriculture (DA) must find a way to execute concrete actions that are “wiser, effective, efficient, and sustainable,” said a top official of an international think tank.

“The year 2021 must be a year where previous justifications are to be rendered as no longer acceptable. Instead, the touted ‘new normal’ clearly means concrete actions that are wiser, effective, efficient, and sustainable,” said Glenn B. Gregorio, Director of Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).

SEARCA Director Glenn B. Gregorio

Gregorio was referring to the Philippines’ agriculture sector, which he thinks can still manage to grow in 2021 on the back of technological interventions that are supported by innovations in policies.

He also said that integrated approaches that mainstream resilience in every node of the value chains of the agricultural food systems need to be made operational and sustained in 2021 and beyond.

“We are banking on a more aggressive integrated intervention from the government sector bolstered by heightened private sector engagement,” Gregorio said.  

“Hence, technological interventions and supported by innovations in policy, institutional, conceptual, and social aspects should be on the top of our priority so that we would be more able to comprehend risks and uncertainties. Using science-based management, we will be ready to step up and step out in response,” he added.

The DA estimated the agriculture sector to grow by 2.5 percent this year despite the persistence of COVID-19 pandemic.

For the entire 2020, the agency is still hoping a growth performance of not less than 1 percent for the sector even after the series of strong typhoons that struck the country during the latter part of the year.

Moving forward, Gregorio has called for a sustained investment in the agriculture sector that ushers in technological leapfrogging in areas of production, logistics and transportation, value-adding activities, and a science-based system of incentivizing consumers towards sustainable behavior.

“For crops production and post-production, we need more expanded systematic weather stations and precision agriculture systems that efficiently provide real-time information and aid for both immediate and long-term decision making,” Gregorio said.  

“This is of course on top of the continued and expanded support to Filipino farmers for improved access to better agricultural inputs, especially quality seeds and stress-tolerant varieties, better animal and fish genetic breeds, mechanization, technical advice, good agricultural practices (GAP), and modern technological tools (i.e., best mobile apps for agriculture, drone technology), among others,” he added.

For animal production, he said “the name of the game” is now an integrated farming system that is based on ‘One Health/EcoHealth’ approach that calls for the operationalization of the triple bottom line approach: profit, people, and planet.

Specifically, as impending threats like African Swine Fever (ASF) and other zoonotic diseases remain, support is needed for improved access to a better surveillance system, integrated biosecurity measures, and technology-based operation system (i.e., Tunnel-vent technology), among others.

“Overall, SEARCA remains hopeful that 2021 is a year when the agriculture sector will significantly grow, and truly become an instrument for socio-economic transformation that centers on the well-being of the farmers and their families,” Gregorio said.

“A key lesson that must be learned from 2020, especially in relation to COVID-19, is the appreciation of risks and uncertainty management,” he further said.