Project to harmonize Asean farm trade

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THE Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) launched a project that seeks to harmonize farm trade within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), which has placed integration of agricultural markets high on its policy agenda.

The project called “Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in the Asean Region: Responding to Food Security and Inclusiveness Concerns” (ATMI-Asean) was launched on August 10 in a national inception workshop co-organized with the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

SEARCA director Dr. Gil C. Sagugit Jr. said that unless national concerns on food security and smallholder inclusiveness are credibly harmonized with the Asean competitiveness agenda, progress in regional agricultural and food markets will be limited and vulnerable to sudden disruptions.

“It is against this backdrop that ATMI-Asean was crafted to assist in preparing national and regional roadmaps for the development of key regional food and agri-based value chains as well as developing mechanisms for improved coordination between national and Asean food reserves and food security policies,” he said.

The project also aims to inform the process of harmonization of food safety and quality standards among Asean member-states, and improve cooperation in research and development to improve practices in key agri-based and food value chains.

The five-country project is funded by the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to enhance the capacity of member states to identify and design national strategies, policies, programs and national agri-food value chain investment initiatives that benefit small-scale rural producers.

The launch in the Philippines was the last in a series that included those in Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Vietnam. IFAD has tapped SEARCA to conduct the project in all five countries.

“The ATMI-Asean project aligns well with SEARCA’s thrust to promote regional integration and cooperation towards inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development, which is the centerpiece of SEARCA’s current five-year development agenda,” Saguiguit said.

He pointed out that the project’s goal is to come up with institutional and policy reforms to “ensure competitive participation and greater benefits for smallholder farmers in the regional agricultural and food markets.”

During the project’s inception workshop attended by government agencies and educational research institutions, DA Undersecretary Evelyn Laviña presented the Agricultural department’s current initiatives to improve the country’s agriculture sector.

These include the shift to high-value crops, mechanized farming, development of a national color-coded agricultural guide map, and crafting of roadmaps and commodity value chain research, among others.

The workshop on structural transformation and market integration which relate to agricultural growth and food security in the Philippines helped level off participants on what the project intends to achieve and the roles of stakeholders, and to identify promising commodities for regional and global value chains.

An action plan was also crafted for the implementation of the project in the Philippines with particular attention to areas of policy study and identification of priority commodities for value chain research.

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