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 Malacanang’s dream of inclusive growth, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said on Tuesday.
“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.
Coloma stopped short of saying that the program, which is Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala’s pet project, was a failure. He lamented the fact that the sector only contributed 1.1 percent to the 7.2 percent gross domestic product (GDP) that the country posted in 2013.
The 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 further emphasized.
However, he recognized the importance of rice productivity and self-sufficiency which targets improvements in rice harvests.
Still, the official noted that the Cabinet itself 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 further averred, 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.
“The view of the Cabinet is that rice self-sufficiency is not enough. Because rice is just one of the alternative products and maybe next year in many places there will be incentives for farmers to try other crops,” Coloma added. JOEL M. SY EGCO