AFTA seen to slow down Agri sector

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Monday, August 4, 2014


THE Association of Southeast Asian Nations Free Trade Agreement (AFTA) will either keep the agricultural sector of the region alive or slow it down.

The Philippine Statistics Authority-National Statistical Coordination Board field office recently reported the growth rate of the agricultural sector in the region slowed down giving the least contribution to the economy.

According to the economy report of the NSCB, the Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) of the Agriculture and Forestry sector based on the 2000 constant prices has increased from P12,891,616 in 2011; P13,082,846 in 2012; and P13,254,532 in 2013.

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However, Dolores Molintas of National Economic and Development Authority-Cordillera Administrative Region asserted the production was not enough to fast track the economic growth rate of the agricultural sector.

This caused more alarm among Cordillerans who fear the agriculture sector might eventually break down come the implementation of AFTA in 2015.

"It is both good and bad news depending on where you are," NSCB regional head Benjie Navarro said expounding the free flow of goods and services will surely have an impact on the country.

But in the case of Cordillera, Navarro is certain it will have an effect on the agriculture sector knowing the highland region is one of the richest in terms of vegetable produce.

The effect of free trade can either be positive or negative depending on how the region competes with other vegetable producers from other regions and other ASEAN countries.

"That's why [Cordillera farmers] have to be more vigilant," Navarro said, adding it is a challenge to both farmers and government to assure the positive effect of AFTA will be felt.

"We need to strengthen our agriculture sector as it is our major employer which will enable it to improve productivity and contribute higher value to our economy," Molintas added.

She said this can be done by equipping farmers with skills in advanced agricultural technologies, climate change adaptation strategies, innovative farming approaches and marketing techniques to make sure their goods have easy access to the market.

The National Economic Development Authority and NSCB hope the agriculture sector of the region will experience a progressive force when the AFTA is implemented to enable the region to recuperate and contribute a larger share in the economy in the years to follow.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, the eminent agricultural produce in the region are cabbage, corn and palay.

In terms of national production, CAR ranked 1st in cabbage production; 8th in corn production; and 13th in palay production in 2012.

Other major commodities in this highland are hog and chicken in which the region ranked 15th in the national production.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 05, 2014.

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