On behalf of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce of the Philippines, we thank the Inquirer, an Arangkada media partner, for highlighting the importance of accelerating the development of the high potential but weakly performing agriculture sector in your editorial, “Necessary push for agriculture” (12/6/17). In relation to the editorial, I am sharing with you a copy of The Arangkada Philippines Project Agribusiness Policy Brief released in September 2016.
These are recommendations from Philippine business groups and foreign chambers contained in our agribusiness policy publication:
- Market access
Utilize unprecedented export market access;
Priority should be given to high value export winner crops, such as avocado, banana, cacao, coffee, mango, marine products, mongo beans, peanuts, pineapple, red hot chili, squash, tobacco, and coconut and palm oil.
- Logistics and supply chain
Unleash capital for agricultural development to help small and financially weak agribusinesses;
Government should focus on ways to reduce risks inherent to the agricultural sector (e.g., provision of basic infrastructure, appropriate technology, and improved market information); Refocus LandBank’s scope to supporting agriculture;
Implement a comprehensive approach to crop insurance (on par with the success of the conditional cash transfer program) that reaches a large swath of an underserved market segment;
- Freeing up the land market
Strong measures are needed to unshackle the land market in the Philippines;
There are a staggering 11 million parcels of untitled properties in the inefficient land market;
After six decades, the country’s land reform remains incomplete, creating uncertainties for agribusinesses, limiting collateralized lending in finance, and discouraging investments;
Land redistribution has created a new class of landed poor;
Limits on landholding and its consolidation should be lifted, along with restrictions on selling or mortgaging newly redistributed land;
Integrate small farmers into larger enterprises.
- Infrastructure investments
Increase investment in farm-to-market roads, post-harvest processing facilities, irrigation, sanitary and phytosanitary inspection facilities, food terminals, cold storage, and food processing factories;
Reduce the large gap in irrigation infrastructure;
Large scale investments are needed to rehabilitate, modernize, and restructure the country’s large surface irrigation schemes;
- Rationalization of extension services
Agricultural production will benefit from adopting new and innovative technologies;
Structure of extension services requires rationalization, which are weak, limited, and fragmented;
A responsive system of extension services will ensure that smallholder farmers are not left to fend for themselves;
The Department of Agriculture should reassert its leadership and bring order to extension services by guiding and coordinating extension units;
Broader streamlining of extension services is essential, providing stronger links between R&D and productive changes in farming behavior.
The need for extensive and effective reforms in agriculture in the Philippines is urgent considering, as the editorial pointed out, “Two-thirds of the poor are in rural areas dependent on jobs and incomes from farming or fishing.” It should become a high priority of both public and private sectors to make farmers and fishermen more productive.
JOHN D. FORBES, chief of party, The Arangkada Philippines Project, The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc.