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Agriculture Undersecretary Evelyn Laviña explains a shift in policies at the Department of Agriculture (DA) during the the third general assembly of the Philippine Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture.

DA to shift policy focus to agribusiness

by Gia Catimbang and Hananeel Bordey 

The Department of Agriculture (DA) plans to shift focus on the agriculture sector to agribusiness to adapt to a business world that is fast advancing due to technology, Agriculture Undersecretary Evelyn Laviña said. 

At the the third general assembly of Philippine Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture (PPSA) forum on July 27, 2017 Laviña said the DA appreciates the PPSA’s encouragement of private entities to take a closer look at what local producers can do by helping bring together industry players and local producers.

“You are sending the right signal,” she added.

Lavina expressed the need to set the right framework by shifting agriculture to “agribusiness,” in line with President Duterte’s focus on agricultural growth that allowed the sector to grow 9.28 percent in the course of 12 months since he became president, including a significant 5.28-percent growth in the first quarter of 2017.

Several ways to allow the policy shift to agribusiness were also discussed such as the intercropping or crop diversification where the DA puts increased emphasis to high-value crops such as cocoa and coffee and focusing where crop grows best, citing Ilocos Norte for their ‘favorable’ farms for garlic and relocating crops from Negros island and Quezon.

Natural-resource management is also a key ingredient that aims to harvest crops for growth and ensure a healthy farmland and fishing grounds for future generations.

Moreover, she also discussed the use of the recently introduced National Color-Coded Guide (NCCAG) Map as an interactive manual for farmers to decide what to plant in their areas.

“The map will inform production decisions about suitable crops and agricultural activities. It will also guide the identification and prioritization of programs, projects and activities in the sector,” based on the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022.

A 10-year Philippine Cattle development program was unveiled that seeks to increase cattle population by means of cattle embryo transplant program.

“These are revolutionary achievements of President Rodrigo Duterte in the field of agriculture in just one year. #ChangeisHere, #PresidentRudyCares, #DuterteDelivers.”

Aside from Lavina, other panelists in the PPSA assembly includes Benjie Yap, chairman and CEO of Unilever Philippines, Faye Corcuera of BPI Foundation and Bro. Armin Luistro, president of Philippine Business for Social Progress.

Participants in the forum included executives from top companies and some 70 PPSA local and international partners.

Launched in 2015 by Grow Asia and the Department of Agriculture, PPSA has brought together more than 80 organizations, forming developing projects, plans and partnerships, based on detailed analysis of value chains that aims to advance food security and sustainable agricultural growth in the Philippines, according to Grow Asia Exchange.

The Philippines is one of the countries that depends largely on agriculture as the main driver of the economy.

The country, however, is vulnerable to natural catastrophes and suffers from low productivity, high production costs and lack of investment in infrastructures, value chains, and modern technology. It, however, remains a major player in the global market in exporting and producing crops such as coconut, corn, coffee, banana and cassava.

Early this year, Grow Asia collaborated with Philippine Business Social Progress to establish a PPSA Secretariat that will serve as an in-country coordinating body. Along with this, the collaboration will provide on-the-ground support to working groups in different areas such as performance measurement, resource mobilization, research and technical assistance as well as communications.

Four working groups were already organized and started to develop their value chain projects around coffee, corn, coconut, fisheries. Added to this, Grow Asia is continuously supporting PPSA through providing overall strategic direction in local and regional areas.

The Working Groups (corn, coffee, coconut and fisheries) that are currently working in the Philippines are pioneering different activities in several farmlands in the country. In the Corn group, 86 hectares are currently planted by 300 farmers trained in four seminars and training programs that gave emphasis to the high productivity of the farmers. They also piloted Yellow Corn Supply Chain Project, which connects corn farmers in Zamboanga del Norte to a cooperative in Batangas.

Meanwhile, the Coffee group reaches out to local cooperatives nationwide that started in Tagbina, Surigao del Sur. With 544 farmers reached, 95 farmers participating in trainings and 77 farmers adopting modern technology, this working group led by Nestle Philippines Inc. produces high quality Robusta Coffee.

Reaching 1, 410 farmers, the coconut group led by multinational Unilever Inc. develops value chain projects in Quezon and Zamboanga for export-quality coconut sugar blocks that is mainly used for sauce production in countries, specifically in Indonesia.

The export potential of P2 billion per annum will possibly give farmers a substantial amount of income increase.

Supported by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Fisheries Working Group is currently constructing a hatchery that is expected to finish by the second half of 2017. They are also conducting trainings for mud crab production that

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