By Melody Mendoza Aguiba
April 10, 2019
Dr. William Dar, Roberto Amores, Dr. Jun Soriano in a PAJ forum
The tariffication of rice will pave the way to farmers’ receiving assistance in growing more profitable, value added crops given the government properly implements the safety nets provided under the law.
The rice tariffication is not at all the end of the rice sector or farming sector as some people think, according Dr. William D. Dar, Inang Lupa Movement chairman in a forum of the Philippine Agricultural Journalists.
Rather, the Rice Tariffication Act (Republic Act 11203) itself has built-in protection for farmers.
First, there is protection from the 35% tariff imposed on imports from ASEAN countries and 50% outside ASEAN.
This is even strengthened by the provision that the president of the Philippines has the authority to raise tariff to the level he deems will aptly protect farmers from collapsing price due to imports.
Likewise, the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) is anticipated to help farmers shift to planting high value crops (HVC) as they will have a funding source from RCEF.
It may be the opportune time for government to turn sole focus on rice to HVC, Dar said.
Roberto C. Amores, Philippine Chamber of Commerce & Industry agriculture committee chairman said one high value crop that must be produced in the country is the edamame, a kind of soybean.
“This has a very huge demand in Japan,” he said.
The RCEF’s P10 billion fund should also contribute to country’s envisioned agri-industrialization. IN the first place, it will have a fund for mechanization.
However, to effectively implement mechanization, corporate farming should be encouraged along with block farming in order to achieve economies of scale.
Three components of agri-industrialization should be supported: 1 increased productivity. 2. processing or manufacturing 3. marketing.
In mechanization, the country only has a capacity of 3 horsepower per hectare while other neighboring countries’ capacity is at 5-7%, Dar said.
In another development that aligns with agri-industrialization, Pampanga State University has an academic training program that not only will raise the number of agricultural workers in the country but will prepare them to become entrepreneurs.
“Our goal is make them agripreneurs,” said Dr. Jun Soriano, president of Pampanga State University.
Agriculture students are encouraged not only to study agriculture but also take related agriculture technical-vocational courses that allow them to obtain NC2 certification from TESDA (Technical Education & Skills Development Authority).
For irrigation, in order to speed up development of irrigation facilities for one million hectares of farm land, government is urged to partner with the private sector in a build-operate-transfer agreement. Otherwise the provision of water for such 1 million hectares will take 20 years.
The Duterte Administration’s target of 60,000 hectares of new irrigated land this year must be minimal compared to need.
Presently, the water supply in the country is allocated 80% for irrigation and 20% for industry and domestic use. However, over time, the allocation for industry/domestic use will shrink to 15% given the increasing population, said Dar.
A priority water supply source should be rainwater even as there is an existing policy that households should be able to harvest rainwater.
The country has a huge potential to raise water supply from rainwater as the country has 2,200 millimeters of rainfall per year. But it only uses up 4 to 6% of such supply.
On the other hand, India only has 700 millimeters of rainfall per year. Yet, it uses up 60% of this water supply.
Philippines should also rehabilitate its 18 major river basins, 421 other river basins, and 700 lakes as these are sources of fresh water that may be used for irrigation or industry/domestic use. (Growth Publishing)
Dr. Jun Soriano, Belle Surara, Melody Aguiba, Ms. Juvy. Photo by Maricar Aquino Bou