Dominguez pushes for bold, new ideas in agri

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    DAVAO CITY. — The stagnant productivity and anemic performance of the agriculture sector is a structural source of poverty, thus the finance chief called on stakeholders in the agribusiness sector to think out of the box and come up with bold ideas to help the government wake Philippine agriculture from its stupor and transform it into a key growth driver.

    Carlos Dominguez, Department of Finance (DOF) secretary, said in his opening remarks at the Sulong Pilipinas Agribusiness Summit here on Monday there is much growth potential in the agriculture that requires policy support.

    “We know that our agricultural sector has been weak for decades, especially after 1989.

    This has prevented the entire economy from accelerating to a full gallop. And now is a good time to put our heads together, share our insights, and arrive at policy recommendations we can all support as we move into a new year and a hopeful new beginning for Philippine agriculture,” Dominguez said.

    “Enhancing the growth of this sector is like waking up a sleeping giant that will help us make larger strides in our overall economic growth,” he added.

    Dominguez said for the past 10 years, the agriculture sector grew at an average of 1.1 percent.

    “In 2018, despite the higher overall GDP (gross domestic product) growth of 6.2 percent, agriculture grew at only nine-tenths of one percent. If it had grown by two percent, overall growth would have been at least one-tenth of one percent points higher, at 6.3 percent,” Dominguez said.

    He, however, said government is encouraged by the findings of the Philippine Statistics Authority that agriculture grew by 3.1 percent in the third quarter of this year.

    “This is a major turnaround from the 0.03 percent contraction recorded in the same period last year, although we must admit that we were also coming from a rather low base,” Dominguez said.

    “Maintaining the growth of the agriculture sector by at least two percent per year is needed to keep ahead of the country’s annual population growth of around 1.7 percent. This is crucial to achieving stable food prices for all Filipinos,” he added.

    Dominguez said the rollout of productivity-enhancement programs, which are currently being carried out by the Department of Agriculture and its attached agencies, will slash farmers’ crop production costs and increase their yields.

    “We need to boost the incomes of our farmers and fishers. For consumers, this means lower prices for core food items, such as rice, vegetables, fish, and meat,” he said.

    To encourage the establishment of more agribusiness enterprises and make the farm sector more attractive and viable for the next generation of “agripreneurs,” Dominguez said an urgent reform that needs to be passed by Congress is the proposed Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act, which aims to gradually reduce the corporate income tax from 30 percent to 20 percent.

    As agriculture secretary during the late President Corazon Aquino’s administration, Dominguez said he is aware that the government needs to work closely with stakeholders in this sector.

    He said that is why the final edition of Sulong Pilipinas for this year gathered the country’s agribusiness stakeholders in this city to come up with actionable recommendations on how to jumpstart agricultural growth.

    “The economic team is earnestly looking forward to the solutions you might arrive at in the course of this meeting. We encourage you to think out of the box and to propose bold ideas,” Dominguez told over 600 agribusiness stakeholders gathered at the SMX Convention Center in Lanang district.