LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – Food security and self-sufficiency programs and interventions in the grassroots level along with preparing the country’s agriculture industry for the free trade pursuant to the agreement of the 10-member Associate of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which already started this year remains to be the primary thrust of the Department of Agriculture and its attached agencies to help the local farmers boost their competitiveness in the global market, a senior agriculture official said here.
DA Undersecretary Emerson Palad, assured that the country is on-track in terms of food security programs following the 99 percent palay harvest represent over 19 million metric tons of palay harvested in the country last year and the surge in corn production.
In terms of rice sufficiency, the country in 2014 reached almost 90 million metric tons, or almost 99 percent of the target which made the government’s rice self-sufficiency achievable before the end of the President’s term in June 2016.
On corn, the country has reached more than 100 percent in terms of yield that saved the country around P28 billion in supposed expenditures for the importation of corn from other countries in Southeast Asia.
“DA hopes to further increase in corn plantation areas and production in preparation for ASEAN Economic Community 2015,” Palad stressed.
Talking about ASEAN free trade, Palad said the country is already lowering the tariffs on goods coming into the country except for rice, sugar and corn while looking into the competitiveness of agricultural produce in terms of international food standards and safety.
“We have been lowering the tariffs of goods coming in into the country and through the Bureau of Agriculture and Fishery Standards, we are also looking into how our agricultural products can be more competitive,” he said.
On the marketing aspect, DA Assistant Secretary Leandro Gazmin shared that the agriculture department through the Agri-Pinoy Trading Center Program has been looking into the needs of farmers.
“Infrastructure, logistics and on how the farmers are bringing their product to the market is really a big challenge. We really want to change the marketing system for the benefit of the farmers which is why we are here. We need to work together as coordination and cooperation with LGUs and farmers is very important,” Gazmin said.
Gazmin cited one of the Aquino administration’s program which is the concreting of all national roads and the upgrading and rehabilitation of around 80 percent of the country’s secondary arterial roads will definitely contribute in improving the state of agriculture in the countryside because farmers will be guaranteed lesser transportation cost and that it would be easier to transport agricultural crops from the countryside to the markets.
Gov. Nestor B. Fongwan cited the government for its continuous financial and technical assistance to local vegetable farmers in order to significantly improve the quality of their produce that will be competitive in the international markets and the local high-end markets.
Fongwan claimed farmers are now embracing good agricultural practices which is one of the major qualifications for local vegetables to be accepted in the ASEN markets.
By Dexter A. See