AFA holds regular dialogue with Dar on agri issues
PCCI calls for improved market access and access to finance
The Agri-Fisheries Alliance recently met with Agriculture Secretary William Dar to get updates on several issues earlier presented by the private sector, among others, market access issues for agri-food exports and access to financing for farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
AFA, which is composed of five coalitions represented by farmers, fisherfolks, agribusiness, academe and multi-sectors including PCCI, submitted to Dar a laundry list of issues and proposed recommendations for the agriculture sector.
“We are glad that we have a good DA Secretary who is engaging and open to constant dialogue with the private sector and who shares our common desire to elevate and improve the Philippine agriculture,” said Roberto Amores, director for PCCI Agriculture Committee.
Dar thanked the members of AFA supporting his leadership and advocacies for the agriculture sector.
Market access issues for agri-exports
Amores shared that even before the pandemic exports of agri-food products have relatively been low compared to our neighbors in ASEAN. “We import more than we export,” he said, adding that in 2018, Philippines posted a negative USD7.9 billion trade deficit as against Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Philippines has continuously been negotiating for market access of fresh vegetables and fruits to Taiwan, Korea and Japan. These countries have strict sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures imposed on Philippines fresh produce. Aside from this, exporters have difficulty complying in various domestic regulations.
Dar said that his office is now working closely with regulatory agencies to harmonize import regulations and export licensing processes to make it easier for exporters to comply.
The DA chief likewise floated the idea of exporting corn to ASEAN due to over supply. Dar said he will look into policy interventions and requirements to help corn farmers export corn to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Access to financing for farmers and agri-business entrepreneurs
The DA hopes for the approval of the P66 stimulus fund for the agriculture sector as this would significantly benefit the local farmers and agri-business entrepreneurs.
Dar said that the funding will be directed towards providing social amelioration for farmers, which could be accessed through the Agricultural Credit and Policy Council (ACPC), farmers enhancement productivity and income generating projects such as food markets, logistics and digital agriculture. Also, the DA will be allocating an estimated P4billion assistance to upland farmers, corn farmers and fisherfolks, who were severely affected by the pandemic. It can be recalled that vegetables from far north could not shuttle their produce to Metro Manila due to transport restrictions imposed at the height of the implementation of enhanced community quarantine.
P1.5B for Dairy Industry
Recognizing the growing demand for fresh milk, Dar announced that DA will provide P1.5 billion funding support to develop the country’s dairy industry. Dairy farming has a huge potential to grow since Filipinos consume milk every day.
However, the industry only produces less than one percent of the country’s total annual dairy requirement. In 2019, total milk production was only 24,000 metric tons compared to 3 million metric tons of imported milk from New Zealand (39%), USA (29%), Netherland, (4.4%) and Australia (4%).
Amores believes that local milk production could improve if government will seriously implement the required interventions, such as setting up of laboratories and post production facilities in strategic areas in Luzon, Visayas and Mindano where dairy farming is present. Important as well is the importation of high genetic quality semen for artificial insemination and live breeder stocks to increase yield, Amores concluded.