By Julio P. Yap, Jr.
Following his appointment as the new head of the Department of Agriculture (DA), Secretary William D. Dar has laid down policies which will lead to building a stronger, more resilient Philippine agriculture and fishery sector, and a more productive rural economy.
According to Dar, among the new strategies for the DA is to engage the private sector in the planning, implementation, and monitoring of the government programs and ensure that there is inclusivity for farmers and fisherfolk.
Under the process, the new DA chief committed that the department will study the various schemes with which the private sector can be engaged in inclusive agricultural enterprises.
“This is the time to reset the clock, to reboot the process so that the farmers and fishers will now be the center and focus of the development process. Let us make them prosperous,” Dar pointed out.
Under his leadership, the DA will reshift its vision towards a food-secure country where farmers and fisherfolk will be prosperous and enjoy the fruit of their labor.
Among the policies which Dar will implement include the modernization and the use of modern technology which will cover all crops, including those with export potential in processed or value-added form like coffee, cacao, cassava, tropical fruits, rubber, among others.
Relative to that, there is a need to diversify crop production in the Philippines as about 80 percent of the country’s farmlands are devoted to only three crops – rice, corn, and coconut.
Agripreneurship should also form part of the paradigm to modernize Philippine agriculture, as farming and fisheries should be treated as business undertakings or industries, he said.
“Agripreneurship is also one of the components to industrialize Philippine agriculture,” Dar stressed, adding that agriculture must be treated as an industry, with the objective of industrializing the value chain of every agricultural commodity.
“While productivity increase is a major objective, it is equally important to produce more income by value adding, processing, manufacturing, and developing markets for both raw and processed agricultural products,” he explained.
Saying that this could be attained by engaging the private sector to invest and set up of more agri-based industries in the countryside and developing markets for agriculture products.
Relative to the industrialization of Philippine agriculture is creating the framework for the digitization of farming and agribusiness activities in the country where credit is made available, affordable and accessible.
Having presented the “new thinking” in agriculture with the vision of a food-secure country and prosperous farmers and fisherfolk, the new DA chief believes that the targets can be met through strong partnerships.
“I believe it (improving the sector’s performance) can be done with the support of the entire DA Family, in strong partnership with the farmers, fisherfolk, private sector, local government units (LGUs), academic and science community, and civil society organizations, including international funding agencies,” he said.
In terms of elevating the status of the farmers and fisherfolk from producers to entrepreneurs, Dar requested the leaders of the private sector, particularly those involved in agribusiness, to make their “journey to prosperity” inclusive.
Partnership with the private sector is important, “because they have the management know-how, capital, technologies, and they know where to market the produce.”
“We will build a stronger, more resilient Philippine agriculture and fishery sector, and a more productive rural economy, built on good governance, proper planning, and implementation of policies that are people-centered, responsive, and accountable,” Dar said.