PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration should focus on agricultural workers and sustainable food production as it prepares to step down in less than three months, a lawmaker said.
“I would strongly advise President Duterte and his team to focus on agricultural jobs and farmer income, as well as stable and cheap food production, in the final lap of his term,” Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda, chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a statement on Monday.
“That’s the area where we will get the most socioeconomic returns.”
Mr. Duterte is set to end his six-year term on June 30.
“We particularly need to look at agriculture, where most jobs are ‘part-time’. 3.7 million out of the 7.2 million workers in the agriculture sector are part-time. So, they’re probably not earning enough,” the solon said, referring to data released in March.
The lawmaker also suggested three ways to generate more jobs in agriculture while reducing food prices at the same time.
“We have to defend from existing threats, such as ASF (African Swine Fever) and avian flu, expedite the introduction of hybrid rice seeds especially in typhoon areas, and accelerate the rollout of training and other programs on biosafety, natural and artificial pest control, and more climate-resilient farming. We also have to take measures to ensure that irrigation will be adequate during this year’s dry season,” Mr. Salceda said.
“Second, we need higher value in crops that are labor-intensive. That will create new jobs and new sources of income. That’s coffee, cacao, abaca, and heirloom varieties of rice and other cereals.”
“Third, we need agri-entrepreneurship, so that farmers can take care of the business side of things when they are done with cropping. That means food preservation facilities and training, packaging, and other value-adding processes,” he added.
Mr. Salceda also said that the missing link in the country’s farm-to-market approach is the infrastructure, including processing and cold storage facilities as well as cyber infrastructure that would allow farmers to sell their goods online.
“We have already made moves to that end, as the Agri-Agra Credit amendments are about to be enacted into law,” he said.
“I am particularly hopeful that it will increase private lending to value-added in agriculture. But the public sector needs to increase outlays in agri value-added as well.”
House Bill (HB) No. 6134 seeks to amend the Agri-Agra Credit Act of 2009, which directs banks to allocate 15% of their loan book to the agriculture sector, with a 10% quota set for agrarian reform beneficiaries.
The bill has passed third reading in both chambers of Congress.
“What President Duterte’s team can do towards this paradigm is to ensure that Agri-Agra credit reform is enacted within his term, Secretary (Willam D.) Dar is able to generate a comprehensive report on the problems in agri value chains, and the DA (Department of Agriculture) and the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) are able to map out how to link farms to processing facilities, for the next administration’s reference,” Mr. Salceda said. — Jaspearl Emerald G. Tan