USDA funds two agri projects worth P1.6 B in PH

Published April 27, 2021, 12:13 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The United States (US) is funding two separate agriculture projects in the Philippines with combined investment of P1.6 billion.

In a letter to Philippine Agriculture Secretary William Dar, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack said his agency is committed to making “historic investments” in the agriculture sector not just in the US but also in other countries like the Philippines.

This was in response to Dar’s letter congratulating Vilsack for his appointment as the USDA chief. In the letter, Dar also urged for “strengthening collaborative efforts between the Philippines and the US on agricultural trade, technical cooperation, and other partnership opportunities.”

In his response, Vilsack mentioned how USDA is transforming America’s food system focusing more on resilient local and regional food production and seeking fairer markets for producers while ensuring access to healthy and nutritious food in all communities.

“Our goal is to build new markets and streams of income for U.S. and Filipino farmers and producers by using climate-smart food and forestry practices. We are committed to making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural communities and creating equity across the Department,” Vilsack said.

Under the Food for Progress Program, the USDA is now supporting two ongoing projects in the Philippines, namely the Philippine Coffee Advancement and Farm Enterprise (PhilCAFE) project and the Building Safe Agricultural Food Enterprises (B-SAFE) project. 

PhilCAFE, with a project cost of US$25.45 million or P1.2 billion, is an investment in the coffee sector that leverages private and public capital to put the National Coffee Roadmap into action.

It targets to benefit 70,250 people and aims to increase production of conventional and specialty coffee, increase coffee exports as well as build the capacity and expand service provision of coffee value chain actors.

The implementing partner for this project is ACDI/VOCA, an international development nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., United States.

Meanwhile, the B-Safe project aims to help improve the trade of safe, wholesome food and agricultural products through the provision of tools and information needed to help the Philippine government implement evidence-based risk analysis. 

The project, which will be implemented until 2023 and targets to benefit 25,200 people, has a budget of US$13.3 million or P442.4 million. The implementing partner for it is Winrock International.

Commenting on the agricultural trade relationship between the Philippines and the US, Dar said it is “robust” and that “the US is the Philippines’ largest single-country import source of agri-fisheries products in the world and the second-largest destination of our food and agri-fisheries exports”.

“We look forward to further enhancing this agricultural trade relationship,” Dar said.

For his part, Vilsack said he looks forward to working with Dar “to strengthen trade, cooperation, and understanding between our countries”.

Vilsack was recently appointed to serve as the 32nd Secretary of USDA under the Biden-Harris Administration.

Like Dar, Vilsack returned to a role where he first served for eight years under President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017.