William Dar aims to quadruple agri growth, double farmers’ income

Ralf Rivas

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William Dar aims to quadruple agri growth, double farmers’ income
Agriculture didn't even grow 1% in 2018. Acting Secretary William Dar says he plans to improve the numbers through programs and reforms.

MANILA, Philippines – Acting Agriculture Secretary William Dar wants agricultural growth to gradually hit as high as 4% and to ensure food security by implementing reforms and programs under his leadership.

In his first press briefing on Tuesday, April 6, Dar noted that the agricultural sector grew a meager 1.1% on average for the last decade. It did not even reach 1% in 2018.

As of the 1st quarter of 2019, farm output stood at a meager 0.67%.

Dar also admitted that prosperity is “non-existent” in almost all agricultural households.

He cited the Family Income and Expenditure Survey, which said that a typical Filipino farmer earned an average of only P100,000 per year or just over P8,000 a month.

He enumerated 8 “paradigms” to improve the sector and double the earnings of farmers.

Modernization of agriculture. He said the use of modern technology must cover all crops, including those with export potential in processed or value-added form like coffee, cacao, cassava, tropical fruits, and rubber.

“There is a need to diversify crop production in the Philippines as about 80% of the country’s farmlands are devoted to only 3 crops: rice, corn, and coconut,” Dar said.

Industrialization of agriculture. Dar aims for industrializing the value chain of every agricultural commodity.

“While productivity increase is a major objective, it is equally important to produce more income by value adding, processing, manufacturing, and developing markets for both raw and processed agricultural products,” he said.

According to Dar, a framework for the digitization of farming is needed to make credit more affordable and accessible.

Promotion of exports. Dar said the private sector’s role will be essential in promoting Philippine agricultural goods.

He said there must be a convergence of efforts of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, and other departments, to achieve this.

Farm consolidation. Dar said parcels of farmland must be consolidated to bring about economies of scale, particularly for crops that require mechanization and massive use of technology. (READ: Machines on PH farms: Catching up with ASEAN integration)

“These schemes include block farming, trust farming, contract farming, and corporative farming that will make farming more efficient,” he said.

Road map development. Dar said a road map must be crafted to include the private sector and other stakeholders.

He added that the private sector may have more access to export markets and funding for research, which makes them necessary for the road map.

Infrastructure development. Dar insisted that a “build, build, build” program is necessary for the agricultural sector to grow.

Doing so would improve linkages to urban, domestic, and export markets.

Higher budget and investments. Dar said a higher budget would help “unlock the bigger potential” of Philippine agriculture and would help improve employment.

He is seeing an 8% increase in the agency’s budget in 2021.

Legislative support. Dar said proposed laws for agricultural and rural development need to be certified as urgent by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Dar was acting agriculture secretary during the Estrada administration from 1998 to 1999.

He is also the only Filipino who led a global agricultural research institute – the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics. He served as its chief from 2000 to 2014. – Rappler.com

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.