Philip­pines way be­hind other ASEAN coun­tries in agri per­for­mance

Agriculture - - Contents -

THE PHILIP­PINES lags be­hind--in a num­ber of ways--com­pared to other mem­ber coun­tries of ASEAN when it comes to agri­cul­ture. The facts and fig­ures that tell us the rea­son for this were pre­sented by Dr. Wil­liam Dar dur­ing a roundtable dis­cus­sion on the fu­ture of Philip­pine agri­cul­ture be­yond the next six years. The event was con­vened last July 28 at the Univer­sity of the Philip­pines, Dil­i­man by the StratSearch Foun­da­tion, headed by Dr. Clarita Car­los.

Dr. Dar was the agri­cul­ture sec­re­tary dur­ing the first year of the Estrada ad­min­is­tra­tion. He then be­came the most suc­cess­ful head of the In­ter­na­tional Crops Re­search In­sti­tute for the SemiArid Trop­ics (ICRISAT), which is based in In­dia; he served for a record three terms.

The Philip­pines has been un­der­per­form­ing in agri pro­duc­tiv­ity. From 1961 to 2012, the an­nual growth rate in agri pro­duc­tiv­ity in the Philip­pines was 2.87 per­cent. This is lower than the 3.73 per­cent of In­done­sia, 4.10 per­cent of Malaysia, 3.21 per­cent of Thai­land, 3.67 per­cent of Myan­mar, 4.16 per­cent of Viet­nam, and 4.32 per­cent of China.

Re­gard­ing agri-food ex­ports, the Philip­pines has a mis­er­able record com­pared to five other Asean coun­tries. In 2014, the Philip­pines had agri-food ex­ports to­tal­ing US$ 6.7 bil­lion (B) com­pared to US$ 38.8B for In­done­sia, US$ 26.2B for Malaysia, US$ 38.4B for Thai­land, and US$ 24.8B for Viet­nam.

The score­card of the Philip­pines in agri ex­ports

is dis­mal com­pared to In­done­sia, Malaysia, Thai­land, and Viet­nam. In 2014, the Philip­pines had only two agri ex­port prod­ucts that brought in more than US$ 1B. These are co­conut oil (US$ 1.3B) and ba­nana (US$ 1.1B). It had no agri prod­uct that brought in more than US$ 500 mil­lion but less than US$ 1B.

In con­trast, In­done­sia had five agri ex­port prod­ucts that brought in more than US$ 1 bil­lion, namely palm oil, US$ 17.5B; nat­u­ral rub­ber, US$ 4.7B; co­conut and palm ker­nel oil, US$ 2.5B; shrimp, US$ 1.8B; and cof­fee, US$ 1.08B. In­done­sia also had four prod­ucts that brought in more than US$ 500 mil­lion but less than US$ 1B each, in­clud­ing cigars and cig­a­rettes, mar­garine, pro­cessed shrimp, co­coa but­ter, and oil cake.

Malaysia had 4 com­modi­ties that brought in more than US$ 1B each, namely palm oil (US$ 12.0B); vegetable oil, hy­dro­genated (US$ 1.9B); nat­u­ral rub­ber, (US$ 1.4B), and palm ker­nel and co­conut oil (US$ 1.0B). Malaysia also had four com­modi­ties that brought in more than US$ 500 mil­lion but less than US$ 1B.

The fig­ures from Thai­land and Viet­nam are also very en­vi­able. Thai­land has nine com­modi­ties that brought in more than US$ 1B each, namely nat­u­ral rub­ber, rice, pre­pared fish, sugar, pre­pared chicken, starch, pre­pared shrimp, an­i­mal feed, and food prepa­ra­tions.

On the other hand, Viet­nam had 8 com­modi­ties that brought in more than US$ 1B each, namely cof­fee beans, rice, shrimp, fish fil­lets, cashew nuts, nat­u­ral rub­ber, pre­pared shrimp, and black pepper.

WHAT CAN BE DONE? – The way to go is to di­ver­sify the crops that Filipino farm­ers plant. The gov­ern­ment could pro­mote high value crops like cof­fee, ca­cao, rub­ber, oil palm, fruits, live­stock and poul­try, and aqua­cul­ture. Most of these high-value com­modi­ties were ne­glected in the past in terms of re­search and fi­nanc­ing.

The way to go is to make agri­cul­ture an hon­est-to-good­ness in­dus­try, which means pro­mot­ing and un­der­tak­ing farm­ing as an hon­est-to-good­ness agribusi­ness. Mak­ing agri­cul­ture prof­itable would be the best en­tice­ment for ed­u­cated young peo­ple to go into it.

FARM MECH­A­NIZA­TION – This is one other strat­egy to make farm­ing in the Philip­pines prof­itable. Mech­a­niza­tion can make land prepa­ra­tion, plant­ing, and har­vest­ing more ef­fi­cient and eco­nom­i­cal, while at the same time pro­duc­ing higher qual­ity prod­ucts.

At the roundtable dis­cus­sion, Engr. Rex Bingabing, out­go­ing head of PhilMech, for in­stance, showed ex­am­ples of how farm mech­a­niza­tion can ben­e­fit Philip­pine agri­cul­ture. For in­stance, the av­er­age cost of pro­duc­ing palay in the Philip­pines is R11 per kilo. With the em­ploy­ment of me­chan­i­cal trans­plant­ing and har­vest­ing, the cost of pro­duc­tion could be re­duced to just over R7 per kilo.

Mech­a­niza­tion, of course, can be adopted for other crops as well as for aqua­cul­ture, live­stock, and poul­try.

AGRITOURISM – A law on farm tourism was passed dur­ing the last Congress. If im­ple­mented cor­rectly, this could en­cour­age young, ed­u­cated en­trepreneurs to go into de­vel­op­ing agritourism des­ti­na­tions. And this could help boost the coun­try’s per­for­mance in agri­cul­ture.

A corn har­vester in ac­tion.

A rice har­vester can help cut down rice pro­duc­tion costs.

(Above, right) Coco sugar be­ing crys­tal­lized. It is one of the high-value co­conut prod­ucts the coun­try ex­ports. Co­conut is the num­ber one agri-ex­port from the Philip­pines. The Philip­pine oil palm in­dus­try is still very small com­pared to those of...

Bananas for ex­port be­ing washed.

Cavendish ba­nana for ex­port, one of two agri-ex­ports that brought in more than $1 bil­lion in one year.

Engr. Rex Bingabing, former PhilMech direc­tor.

Dr. Wil­liam Dar.

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