ASEAN businesses not a threat to Filipino farmers
MANILA, Philippines – The economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is rather a significant opportunity for Philippines small-hold farmers, not a threat. (READ: 'Inclusive growth must start with agriculture')
However, to ensure the resilience of farmers amid globalization, helping farmers should form part of companies' corporate strategy and not just fall under their corporate social responsibility.
Agribusiness experts made this conclusion at the 2nd Global Agribusiness Management and Entrepreneurship Conference on Friday, October 27, at the Acacia Hotel in Alabang, Muntinlupa City, organized by the University of the Philippines Los Baños. International agribusinessmen, agribusiness researchers, educators, and students attended the event.
Agribusinesses are businesses in the inter-connected and global value chain of food, fiber, forestry, and fisheries. (READ: The business of agribusiness)
Among the recommendations for agribusiness practitioners discussed during the conference were building the entrepreneurial capacity of farmers, mobilization of innovative social enterprise models, enabling access to agricultural credit and insurance, local alignment to international standards, and stronger government support.
Farmer-centrism, a new strategy
"Don't look at farmers as needy people, but as people with resources whom we can partner with," Israel Ambassador to the Philippines Ephraim Ben Matityau told the businessmen.
ASEAN Business Advisory Council Chairperson Jose Concepcion III also stressed the importance of farmer-centrism during the ASEAN Agriculture Summit on October 6. (WATCH: ASEAN Agriculture Summit 2017)
“If we really want to change the landscape of prosperity for all in this country, the poor rice and coconut farmers have to be paid attention to. The private sector has to eventually realize the importance of helping (the farmers)," said Concepcion.
The challenge today however, is to enable the efficiency of the farmers towards global standards by incorporating social enterprise models such as contract farming to ensure inclusivity in the agriculture industry.
Among suggested strategies for agribusiness companies were building farmers' capacity through financial literacy training, democratizing technologies and machinery, opening more market channels, and enabling better access to credit and financing – make the business farmer-centric but still market-oriented.
"It serves the best interest of your company if the farmers are efficient in production," said former agriculture secretary Senen Bacani.
Citing an example, Nestlé Philippine Vice President for Corporate Affairs Ruth Navales said that while they train farmers how to farm coffee, they also teach basic accounting. (READ: From accounting to enterprise: UPLB students help housewives do business)
Government support, an essential factor
Navales said that tapping the government to coordinate and build roadmaps is the key to making agriculture inclusive.
Just this March, the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry launched the 5-year National Roadmap for Cacao and Coffee.
Roadmaps for other agri-industries such as mango, poultry, dairy, and seaweeds are in the works. (READ: NEDA Board approves dev't plan, vows 'inclusive growth' under Duterte)
Matityau noted that state universities and colleges should get enough government support as they provide an ecosystem of inclusive growth through research projects applied to local communities. (WATCH: Helping farmers through agricultural biotechnology)
He emphasized the importance of SUCs in rural development as integrators and extension providers, learning from the experience of his home country, Israel, as a leader in fresh produce exports even if much of its land is not suitable for agriculture. – Rappler.com