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Philippines, Hungary agree to boost agricultural trade, irrigation

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Hungarian Ministry of Agriculture to boost collaboration on agricultural trade and water security.

Philippine Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol met with his Hungarian counterpart, István Nagy, on Wednesday, March 27, to sign the MOU which will increase market access for agricultural products between the two countries.

"The connection with your country is very much in line with the eastern opening policy of the government and we would like to nurture this friendship through increasing economic ties and friendship," Nagy said.

Under the agreement, the Philippines will be diversifying its exports to Hungary, which will include high-value coconut products, fish and fish meal, fresh mangoes, copra meal, carageenan, abaca, and seaweed-based animal feeds.

Philippine agricultural products will also be featured in Hungary during a food fair in September.

Nagy told reporters that for their part, Hungary is eyeing to increase meat and poultry exports to the Philippines.

"We specifically tackled animal health issues and the possible solutions for that, and I would like to express my thankfulness for the minister (Piñol) to find these solutions," he added.

A scholarship scheme for agriculture students is also being considered, which would be funded by the Hungarian government.

The DA said a joint working group will be formed to monitor the collaboration between the Philippines and Hungary.

Aid amid water crisis

Aside from this, Nagy also said they plan to share their technology and expertise to help the Philippines have better irrigation as well as clean and drinkable water.

"We have developed technologies and techniques regarding irrigation as well as water management. We have highly progressive tech regarding water purification," he said.

"We are of course more than happy to provide this expertise and knowledge also to the Philippines."

This is considered timely, as the Philippines is grappling with El Niño. (READ: El Niño to have minimal effects on inflation – NEDA)

"The only way to prepare for El Niño is to improve irrigation facilities and if we could use precision irrigation, actually [it could help]," Piñol said.

According to the government, 80,000 hectares (ha) of land need to be irrigated, but the National Irrigation Administration can only reach 30,000 to 40,000 ha.

"The big dams can [also] be used for water supply. Rice production doesn't need water every day of the year," Piñol said, noting that during the times rice paddies don't need water, the supply could be diverted instead to Metro Manila for non-agricultural use.

Other suggestions Piñol cited were addressing deforestation, deepening rivers, and improving water catchments. – Rappler.com