Agri reforms key to job generation – Binay

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Reforms in the agricultural sector will improve job generation, Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said on Tuesday.

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Binay made the observation after visiting the province of Pangasinan where he met with the provincial irrigators’ association.

“Agriculture is a labor-intensive sector and studies show that 71 percent of the agricultural households are seen to be chronic poor,” he said. “It is therefore imperative that reforms be made in our agricultural sector to improve job generation,” he added, noting that employment plays a major role in the fight against poverty.

According to the Vice President, the agricultural sector accounted for 18 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2014.

“If we take into consideration the whole agricultural chain, the sector’s contribution to the GDP and workforce accounts to 35 percent and 50 percent respectively,” he said.

Binay noted that growth in agricultural production and productivity is highly constrained by the high cost of production inputs, insufficient supply chain and logistics, and insufficient provision for irrigation infrastructure.

Other factors include low rate of technological adaptation, limited access to formal credit and financing, and vulnerability of production due to climate and extreme events.

To address these, Binay said the Department of Agriculture (DA) should shift from being rice-centric to food security-centric and give emphasis to farmers’ welfare.

“We should also improve rural infrastructure facilities that will support an efficient delivery system for the farmers such as farm-to-market roads connected to highways, post-harvest facilities, and irrigation,” he said. “We must increase sector resilience to climate change risks by encouraging more banks and financial institutions to lend to the agriculture and fisheries sector through agricultural insurance and by establishing climate responsive food production systems.”

The Vice President further said that enhancement of governance and policy environment, along with the continued review and evaluation of existing agricultural policies and programs, must be conducted to ensure that the intended beneficiaries of the programs are truly reached.

“Government banks should be mandated to provide loans to farmers that have a guaranteed supply purchase agreement,” the Vice President said.

“There must also be an aggressive expansion of agricultural infrastructure in Mindanao to help reduce food shortage and increase job availability, which in turn, will indirectly reduce unrest and crime incidence,” he added.

Binay also stressed the need to provide farmers and fisher folk access to social security agencies such as the Social Security System (SSS) and the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG Fund).

“The assistance these agencies can extend to them will help boost the agricultural development numbers and the morale of our agricultural sector builders,” he said.

“Ang paglago ng ekonomiya ay dapat maramdaman ng lahat. Economic growth must be inclusive – pro-poor, pro-employment, pro-agriculture and pro-rural development,” he concluded.

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