Road map for a rad­i­cal resur­gence in agri­cul­ture needed

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - BUSINESS - ERNESTO M. OR­DOÑEZ

We need a rad­i­cal resur­gence in agri­cul­ture. Road maps will help achieve this ob­jec­tive. In 2017, agri­cul­ture grew by 3.9 per­cent. But from 2013 to 2015, it grew by 1.1 per­cent, 1.6 per­cent, and 0.27 per­cent, re­spec­tively. In 2016, it de­clined by 1.3 per­cent. There­fore, from 2015 to 2017, the av­er­age growth is 2.6 per­cent for two years, or an av­er­age growth of only 1.3 per­cent a year.

Peter Drucker, whom I stud­ied dur­ing my doc­toral stud­ies, em­pha­sized: "It is im­por­tant to do things right, but it is more im­por­tant to do the right things."

Do­ing things right is largely helped by glob­ally ac­cepted man­age­ment sys­tems like ISO 9000. DA is in­sti­tut­ing this, but it should be done at a faster pace. Less than a third of DA units have ISO 9000, while de­part­ments like the Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try (DTI) have had it as a re­quire­ment for all its units for many years now.

How­ever, do­ing the right things is much more im­por­tant. Some of these are be­ing ef­fec­tively car­ried out by DA and Sec­re­tary Manny Piñol. But ad­di­tional strate­gic moves should also be un­der­taken.

One clear but ne­glected ini­tia­tive is the for­mu­la­tion of key agri­cul­ture sub­sec­tor road maps that are com­mit­ted to by pri­vate sec­tor-led teams with full gov­ern­ment sup­port. They will also be the con­tin­u­ing over­sight group for the road maps' im­ple­men­ta­tion un­der DA's di­rec­tion. With­out these teams, the road maps will just lie idle and use­less on the shelf.

We have fallen from be­ing South­east Asia's agri­cul­ture leader to now one of its lag­gards. On April 10, Bayan Academy pres­i­dent Ed­uardo Mo­rato cited the ta­ble be­low, which is pub­lished in his mono­graph "Agri­cul­ture In­dus­try and Em­ploy­ment Out­look."

From the ta­ble, we note that the Philip­pines is the least pro­duc­tive in five of the seven sec­tors, while it is sec­ond and third worst in the other two sec­tors.

To­day, there are road maps for some of these crops, as well as other agri­cul­ture sub­sec­tors. Man­age­ment road map ex­perts should now be har­nessed to re­view the thor­ough­ness of these road maps so that they also have a global long-run per­spec­tive, de­ter­mine if they are im­ple­mented prop­erly, and rec­om­mend needed im­prove­ments.

For a time, the Philip­pine In­sti­tute of De­vel­op­ment Stud­ies (PIDS) re­ceived more than 30 sub­sec­tor road maps from DTI, but none from DA. PIDS (ranked 37th among the top 100 think tanks in South­east Asia and the Pa­cific by Think Tank In­dex Re­port) can pro­vide valu­able guid­ance for both the DA and DTI road maps. It can also max­i­mize the DA-DTI syn­ergy so that we will have a co­he­sive agro-in­dus­trial strat­egy with road mapde­tails to back this up.

In fact, food man­u­fac­tur­ers un­der DTI is the largest man­u­fac­tur­ing sub­sec­tor with a 47 per­cent share, much big­ger than the next sub­sec­tors of chem­i­cals and chem­i­cal prod­ucts at 12 per­cent, and ra­dio, TV, and com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment at 10 per­cent.

Un­for­tu­nately, not enough of the food in­puts come from our own farm­ers. Con­se­quently, many pro­ces­sors have to im­port their in­puts, which we could eas­ily pro­duce with the proper gov­ern­ment sup­port un­der an ef­fec­tive road map.

Chair Alex Es­caño of the Philip­pine Coun­cil for Agri­cul­ture and Food, Inc. (PCAFI) iden­ti­fied 32 com­mod­ity cham­pi­ons to lead the PCAFI ef­forts. How­ever, hardly any of them have been tapped to help for­mu­late and im­ple­ment the badly needed road maps for their re­spec­tive sec­tors.

In to­day's agri­cul­ture en­vi­ron­ment, where both global threats and op­por­tu­ni­ties abound, it is crit­i­cal that we win, rather than lose, in the global com­pe­ti­tion. DA should pro­vide the bud­get and re­sources to make road maps a high pri­or­ity ini­tia­tive.

Do­ing the right things through road maps may be the key to the agri­cul­ture rad­i­cal resur­gence we badly need to­day.

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