Shift to high-value crops, PH told

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    The World Bank (WB) said the Philippines should shift its emphasis from rice to high-value crops (HVC) to boost the growth of the agriculture sector.

    The WB in a report released yesterday cited the need to shift from a policy that is centered on rice to one that can anticipate greater balance in priority setting and resource allocation.

    It added the government must move towards an agriculture and food system that is sustainable and resilient but must also be inclusive in the opportunities it provides and the consumers it services.

    At the same time, the system should be competitive in both domestic and international markets, the WB said.

    The report tackled these suggestions to help the country transform the local agriculture during and beyond the new coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

    In a virtual briefing yesterday, Eli Weiss, senior agriculture economist of the WB, said the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) budget remains focused on rice program but the crop only contributes 18 percent to the sector’s value production.

    Weiss said a shift from protecting a specific product and type of farmer will improve the overall performance of the local agriculture sector as it will also strengthen the food and nutrition security of the country.

    Weiss said the Philippines must also shift from being supply-oriented to a demand-driven agriculture as rice will remain a vital food staple. But bulk of income earning and job creation opportunities are being generated by other crops.

    In the same briefing, former socio-economic planning secretary Cielito Habito concurred with the WB report, saying the country should lessen its focus on rice production.

    Habito said the DA must expand the role of HVCs while also fostering farmers’ participation in value-adding and attracting more agribusiness investments from major business entities.
    He said a realistic land-use policy must be implemented with a win-win approach to land conversion that will benefit both farmers and businessmen.

    DA Secretary William Dar said the country can no longer rely on previous agricultural models especially with the vulnerabilities uncovered by the pandemic.

    “We will follow the path laid out by our new thinking for Philippine agriculture guided by the eight paradigms including agricultural modernization; industrialization; farm and fishery consolidation and clustering; systematic and strategic export development; strengthening rural infrastructure program; higher budget and public-private sector investments; cooperation with the legislative branch; and roadmap development,” Dar said.