Farming is weakest link in economy: DA

    Modernization needed. Agriculture has been growing 1 percent per annum, slower than population growth of 1.8 percent .
    Modernization needed. Agriculture has been growing 1 percent per annum, slower than population growth of 1.8 percent .

    Agriculture has barely grown in the last decade, the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) said yesterday.

    Agriculture and fishery expanded “at a measly rate of 1.1 percent annually, while population has been increasing at a faster rate, at 1.8 percent yearly,” said Dr. Nicomedes Eleazar who heads BAR, the research arm of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

    It’s the weakest link in our economy, he told the Future Earth National Summit convened by the National Academy of Science and Technology.

    “Farmers and fisherfolk who feed the nation with backbreaking toil, all sweat and blood, are among the poorest and most hungry in the society,” Eleazar said.

    Saying the trend should stop, Eleazar bared the DA’s “New Thinking for Agriculture” initiatives, including the industrialization of agriculture, more exports, farm consolidation, and a higher budget and investments.

    “The New Thinking proffers the idea that agriculture is inherently linked to the other sectors of the economy, as against the previous viewpoint that treats the sector as a mere production machine,” he said.

    He said the New Thinking will use modern technology for all crops, including those with export potential in processed or value-added form, and then industrialize the value chain of every agricultural commodity.

    Farming will be computerized by adopting technologies such as data analytics and the use of drones in crops monitoring, among other applications. Credit will be more affordable and accessible to farmers.

    Agri-preneurship will be pushed to modernize agriculture, in which farming and fisheries should be treated as business undertakings.

    Value adding, processing, manufacturing, and developing markets for both raw and processed agricultural products will make agriculture profitable.

    “Our two main goals are clear and simple: to ensure national food security; and to work for the prosperity of our farmers,” Eleazar said. “Thus, Ani at Kita.”

    He said the DA is now adopting climate smart agriculture as an approach for developing location-specific agricultural strategies to secure sustainable food security under climate change.

    It is also promoting science-based technologies to ensure higher food production with least possible impact on the environment throughout the agricultural landscape.

    These include organic agriculture, balanced fertilization and nutrient management to revive the degraded soils as a result of decades of chemical fertilizer use.

    In anticipation of extreme weather like drought and floods, the DA will partner with local governments on strategic positioning of food, storage of harvested grains and the provision of needed interventions in affected areas, Eleazar said.

    “We are called upon to make use of science, education and learning to ensure this country’s food security and sustainable development under strenuous conditions,” Eleazar said.

    The bottom line, he said, is to ensure national food security, the prosperity of Filipino farmers, the competitiveness of farm and fishery products, and the sustainability of agricultural progress.

    “Philippine agriculture today confronts an immense challenge: the challenge of feeding a growing population in the face of diminishing land and water resources, worsening impact of climate change, and rising costs of producing food,” Eleazar said.

    “Rural incomes must increase to enable farmers to improve their standard of living,” he added.