Hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try ab­sent in govt pri­or­ity


Business Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - By Mary Grace Padin @ _en­ren

HOR­TI­CUL­TURE grow­ers and en­trepreneurs in the coun­try are call­ing on the gov­ern­ment to con­sider list­ing hor­ti­cul­ture as a pri­or­ity in­dus­try for the de­vel­op­ment of this “po­ten­tially grow­ing” field.

Philip­pine Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety Inc. (PHSI) Pres­i­dent Norma Vil­lanueva told the BusinessMirror hor­ti­cul­ture used to be a listed pri­or­ity un­der the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture ( DA). This was, how­ever, re­moved, which means

We are on our own.” —Vil­lanueva

the in­dus­try does not re­ceive enough sup­port from the gov­ern­ment any­more. “When you’re a listed pri­or­ity in­dus­try, you get bud­getary sup­port from the gov­ern­ment. There would be an ini­tia­tive from the gov­ern­ment to help you in what­ever un­der­tak­ing you have. But now, there’s none, so we are on our own,” Vil­lanueva said in a phone in­ter­view.

Aside from bud­getary sup­port, Vil­lanueva said be­ing a pri­or­ity in­dus­try also means it would be a pri­mary con­cern of the gov­ern­ment in terms of in­ter­ven­tions, in­cen­tives and poli­cies. “It would, there­fore, help im­prove our pro­duc­tion. There would also be an ex­pected in­crease in mar­ket­ing sup­port. It’s, hope­fully, a venue for the progress of the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try,” she said.

Vil­lanueva de­scribed the road to be­ing a pri­or­ity in­dus­try as a “long and te­dious” process. For one, there is no ex­ist­ing statis­tics that pro­vide a pic­ture of the sta­tus of the coun­try’s hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try.

The PHSI of­fi­cial said data are cru­cial, as be­fore the gov­ern­ment could even de­cide to pri­or­i­tize a cer­tain in­dus­try, a mar­ket re­search should be done as back up to the stake­hold­ers’ re­quest.

At the mo­ment, she said the PHSI is af­fil­i­at­ing with other groups, such as gar­den or­ga­ni­za­tions from the re­gions, to col­late the needed data, in­clud­ing the num­ber of farm­ers, vol­ume and value of pro­duc­tion, im­ports and ex­ports, among others.

“We’re try­ing to get all the statis­tics. We will com­pile them all to­gether and it will not be easy as we also need data dur­ing the past decade, so we can project what will hap­pen to the in­dus­try in the next 10 years,” Vil­lanueva ex­plained.

She said the PHSI is cur­rently in talks with the DA’s Bureau of Plant In­dus­try and the de­part­ments of Environment and Nat­u­ral Re­sources and Tourism to iden­tify which agency the group should link up with to have the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try pri­or­i­tized.

Hor­ti­cul­ture in PHL

DE­SPITE the lack of statis­tics, the PHSI as­serted that hor­ti­cul­ture is a “small but grow­ing in­dus­try.”

“It’s thriv­ing now be­cause a lot of peo­ple are re­ally into it, try­ing to re­vive it. There are a lot of grow­ers and in­di­vid­ual busi­nesses that im­port and ex­port plants,” Vil­lanueva said. She added that peo­ple of­ten mis­take hor­ti­cul­tur­ists as hob­by­ists, but un­known to them, hor­ti­cul­ture has a big scope—from fruits, veg­eta­bles, or­na­ments and even medic­i­nal plants.

“Hor­ti­cul­ture re­ally is the nur­tur­ing and prop­a­ga­tion of plants. So it’s very gen­eral and all- en­com­pass­ing. Un­der it, there’s fruits and veg­eta­bles, flow­ers, medic­i­nal plants, trees, marine flora and more,” she ex­plained.

But cur­rently, she said the gov­ern­ment is fo­cus­ing more on the prop­a­ga­tion of farm pro­duce, but not on the other branches of hor­ti­cul­ture.

Agri­cul­ture Deputy Chief of Staff Den­nis Ar­pia, for his part, said in a phone in­ter­view that the DA has not aban­doned the in­dus­try. How­ever, he said it is not a pri­mary con­cern of the gov­ern­ment as of now.

“The gov­ern­ment’s thrust is en­sur­ing enough food through its Food Sta­ples Suf­fi­ciency Pro­gram. But see­ing as hor­ti­cul­ture mostly does not deal with food, it is not on the fore­front of our pro­grams, though, that is not to say we are aban­don­ing it,” Ar­pia said. He added that each re­gion in the coun­try pro­vides sup­port to help hor­ti­cul­tural grow­ers in the prov­inces.

Ar­pia cited, as an ex­am­ple, the pro­posal to use the old trad­ing post in La Trinidad, Benguet, as a trad­ing area for the grow­ers of flow­ers in the area. This trad­ing post used to be the mar­ket place for all agri­cul­tural goods in the province be­fore the con­struc­tion of the Benguet Agri-Pi­noy Trad­ing Cen­ter. Ar­pia said the pro­posal is al­ready be­ing fi­nal­ized, so hor­ti­cul­ture grow­ers can ben­e­fit from the old trad­ing cen­ter.

The of­fi­cial added that the DA, through its Agribusi­ness and Mar­ket­ing As­sis­tance Ser­vice, is as­sist­ing hor­ti­cul­tural grow­ers in trad­ing their prod­ucts.

In the mean­time, the PHSI said it is pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion and train­ing to farm­ers on the proper prop­a­ga­tion of plants. Vil­lanueva added that the group is urg­ing the grow­ers to be­gin plant­ing seeds by the thou­sands, es­pe­cially Philip­pine en­demic plants, and con­trib­ute to the growth of the in­dus­try.

But she said farm­ers could not risk plant­ing a lot as they are un­cer­tain if they would be able to sell their prod­ucts. This is why there is a need for gov­ern­ment sup­port to en­sure that these grow­ers and en­trepreneurs would suc­ceed.

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