Saving agriculture requires firm action on roadmaps
October 14, 2021 | 00h00
Agriculture in the Philippines remains a lost soul, and putting the blame on being a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is not entirely correct. We embraced this mantra of “free trade” about 30 years ago and understood the ramifications it could have if we were not prepared.
Unfortunately, we have become deaf and blind to all the conditions necessary to prepare our agricultural sector to be competitive. Instead of full support for our agricultural sector, government funds have been slowly and systematically reduced in favor of other priorities, all of which unfortunately have yielded little success.
How did the Philippine economy develop before the pandemic? My unequivocal answer to that would be thanks to our overseas Filipino workers whose remittances supported household spending on food, shelter and other necessities – yes, even imports that were so much cheaper. .
I have yet to see a true champion of Philippine agriculture under previous presidents, even the one who now sits in Malacanang Palace and who blamed the WTO during his campaign outings as the problem at hand. the root of the woes of farmers and fishermen.
Many countries have wisely invested resources to strengthen their agricultural sectors, but so far all we have done is protest what they have done as a disgusting and unfair step. Look who’s laughing at the bank.
To be fair, William Dar’s appointment to the Agriculture Department was one of the government’s best decisions in decades. He may be a bit old for a job that demands youthful energy, but he has the vision and the experience.
He rose to the challenge of neglected years and failed stewardship with programs that have, even gradually, brought about change despite the uphill battle he faces to bring national government support to proposed interventions.
Not exactly popular for his decisions to support the large-scale importation of pork at a time when African swine fever (ASF) had nearly halved local pork production, Dar has been quick to suggest programs that don’t deserve as the support of future administrations.
One of them is his focus on commodity roadmaps, a process that had been tentatively started before its time, but which it tries to refine enough to be useful, relevant and above all capable of change, and so that sectors can achieve their objectives.
Developing meaningful roadmaps is a tedious process that requires the cooperation of all relevant stakeholders, even with the help of experts to provide guidance in setting goals and defining concrete steps on how to achieve this. reach them.
It is a welcome process, although it was introduced a bit too late. What is important is sticking to how it needs to be done right to bring stakeholders together in achieving shared and measurable goals.
Roadmaps will be questioned and revised
Expect roadmaps to be questioned and revised, and while all stakeholders approve the document, updates and adjustments will be needed to keep goals relevant.
Government support, both nationally and locally, will follow if such roadmaps make sense and are backed by a strong coalition of all stakeholders in the sector. It is time for “people’s power” in the agricultural sector after decades of waiting for the government to lead the way.
Until the private sector is able to join forces to advance the change it wants, Philippine agriculture will continue to be a lost soul.
The roadmaps are also a guarantee against food imports, which has received so much undeserved criticism in recent months, not only because of ASF, but also because of disruptions in global supply chains. agricultural products.
From a pragmatic point of view, food imports are necessary when the supply-demand balance risks destabilizing the economy. This happened when pig farms were hit by ASF, pork prices doubled and inflation reached uncomfortable levels.
Food imports should be time-bound, especially if the country has the potential to produce enough to meet local demand and possibly even consider competing in the global market through exports.
The most compelling case that comes to mind is that of yellow maize, which is currently not produced in sufficient quantity and quality for the needs of the livestock industries. We are now importing almost the same quantity that is available locally, but at higher prices due to tariff restrictions.
At currently high world prices due to tight supply, the country has become vulnerable to global changes when it can be more relaxed about its effect on consumer prices for pork, chicken, eggs and fish.
Strong roadmaps and roadmap teams, such as that in the corporate purchasing sector, are able to readily recognize developing risks and come up with prudent and acceptable approaches, including lobbying for government interventions to enable smoother transitions.
The world, after nearly two years of business disruption, is slowly returning to normal and it will demand unprecedented adjustments from everyone for longer.
The national government is doing its best to cope with the disruption, and some of its solutions may appear detrimental to the most vulnerable sectors. Roadmaps are useful, but the ultimate test will be the determination and passion of the people who will implement the programs. A call to arms for the new agro-food managers of the new administration.
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