>MANILA, Philippines – Resource specialists and economists are agreed that the most serious shortage the global economy will face in the next ten to twenty years will no longer be energy. The rising food prices at the beginning of 2011 which have precipitated riots in many parts of the world are symptomatic of the shortages in food that we shall be facing more and more in the coming years as hundreds of millions in the emerging markets, such as China, India, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam, and the Philippines graduate from grinding poverty to middle-class status. The most critical resources in the next decade or so will be food and water. More than ever, the Philippines will have to give the highest priority to agricultural development. Fortunately, a focus on agriculture will kill two birds with one stone: reduce poverty, which is predominantly a rural phenomenon, and increase the supply of food for everyone.
How do we make the 12 million small farmers, fishers, and landless rural workers be more productive? Dr. Rolando Dy, the director of the Center for Food and Agribusiness of the University of Asia and the Pacific, came out with 19 recommendations that should be taken very seriously by the present administration in its Medium-Term Plan. These recommendations were presented in a conference that coincided with the beginning of the term of President Benigno Aquino III. I present the list of Dr. Dy as a contribution of UA&P to the ongoing consultations in the preparation of the Medium-Term Plan. The 19 recommendations are:
1. Develop private-sector-led agriculture-fishery diversification plan anchored in specific industry roadmaps that are market-led and competitive.
2. Eliminate quantitative restrictions (QRs) on rice and shift the role of the National Food Authority (NFA) to buffer stocking and logistics. Adequate protection and preparedness, however, should be provided to the farmers.
3. Revitalize tree crops (coconut, rubber, oil palm, coffee, cacao, bamboo, etc.) through productivity enhancement and related programs.
4. Allow suitable public lands for plantings of tree species, including rubber, bamboo, and oil palm.
5. Sustain fishery, aquaculture, and mariculture programs.
6. Redefine the Strategic Agriculture and Fisheries Development Zone (SAFDZ) to focus on products and services with comparative advantage. Ensure ACEF matching grants for common service facilities.
7. Revisit the National Land Use Act.
8. Strengthen the agricultural extension system by returning the administrative control of agricultural extension to the Department of Agriculture.
9. Establish incentives to private extension system such as contract growing, sugar mill district development committee, and input supplier.
10. Establish/upgrade regional testing laboratories and train personnel.
11. Increase irrigation area through rehabilitation and new construction of small irrigation systems. Ensure that non-rice irrigation also benefits.
12. Adopt the Farming Systems Approach among small holders farmers, supported by appropriate technology, better marketing, value adding.
13. Implement capacity building programs (including entrepreneurship and informal training) for rural folks for farm and non-farm enterprises, including establishment and/or strengthening of farmers organizations.
14. Implement DA organizational rationalization to secure organizational agility and effectiveness, including the food control system for assuring food safety and quality and bio-security.
15. Establish a Council of Leaders to provide policy advice and support to the DA Secretary, and to advocate for more resources.
16. Institutionalize small farmer representation in policy-making, planning, implementation, and monitoring.
17. Institutionalize third-party assessment of logic and outcomes of programs and projects.
18. Together with the Department of Agrarian Reform, DA to provide support to CARP beneficiaries to capacitate them to be productive.
19. Create a separate Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture to maximize development of underutilized ponds, inland waters, and coastlines to produce protein and increase exports.
These measures can go a long way to prepare the Philippines for the food shortage problem that will be faced by the global economy in the next ten to twenty years. If we do our homework, as Dr. Dy outlines above, we can be a major exporter of high-value crops to our neighboring Northeast Asian neighbors, especially China, South Korea, Taiwan and Japan. For comments, my e-mail address is email@example.com.