INSTEAD of focusing on the ambitious rice self-sufficiency program, the Department of Agriculture (DA) should work to improve the entire agriculture sector to achieve inclusive growth, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said on Tuesday.
Short of saying that the rice self-sufficiency program is a failure, Coloma said the DA should take steps to improve the entire agriculture sector, which contributed only 1.1 percent to the 7.2 percent growth posted by the economy last year.
“By itself, ‘yung rice [self-] sufficiency target is a worthy objective, but it cannot also by itself increase the productivity of the entire agricultural sector. Since we want inclusive growth, and since we accept that a big number of Filipinos are in the agricultural sector, namely farmers and fisherfolk, then to achieve inclusive growth, we will have to work at improving the productivity of the entire agricultural sector, and not just of rice farmers,” the Palace official told reporters.
The rice self-sufficiency program is the pet project of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, who had been criticized for his failure to stop rice smuggling.
The agriculture sector he stressed, paled in comparison with the performance of the services and the manufacturing sectors.
“Kaya hindi singular ‘yung focus lamang to increasing productivity of ricelands, but as I mentioned earlier, to increase productivity of the entire agricultural sector. Wala tayong mindset na ‘yung rice self-sufficiency lamang ang tinutulak natin. Ang importante the productivity of the entire agricultural sector,” Coloma said.
However, he recognized the importance of rice productivity and self-sufficiency, which targets improvements in rice harvests.
Still, the official noted that the Cabinet has agreed that the DA should work out a plan to boost the productivity of all agricultural products.
“Because this will give a more significant contribution to the inclusive growth we aspire,” he said.
The Cabinet’s economic cluster, he added, believe that most poor Filipinos belong to the farm and fisheries sectors.
To remedy the problem, Coloma said there should be a “systemic view” and implementation of “systemic reforms” to prevent cases such as rice smuggling which is now being investigated by Congress.
“[Reforms] will help the overall economic development effort, even as we continue focusing on resolving the weaknesses of the present system that paved the way for the anomalous transactions,” he pointed out.