‘Inclusive growth starts with agri’

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Thursday, February 13, 2014


THE perception that a career in agriculture has no money has not helped the industry, a stakeholder observed.

Alejandro Teves Escaño, chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc., believes that if the sector, with the help of the government, comes up with innovative ways to grow crops, farms will have more yield and earn more for their families.

Escaño noted that in other countries, farmers are doing so much better, owning at least 1.5 hectares of land. He said concerns about the Philippines always being struck by typhoons is a flimsy excuse for poor yields, saying other countries where agriculture thrives also have climate problems.

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Escaño pointed out that in China and Taiwan, they are also plagued by long winters and only have a few months to grow crops. With the country having relatively good weather most of the year, Escaño has no doubt that agriculture can do better if the sector only learns to use better farming techniques and pick high-value crops.

Why not grow coffee and cacao?

He cited some processes like getting a soil analysis to determine the best kind of crop to grow and planting crops that are in demand locally as some ways the industry can benefit. He noted that the country imports coffee when its climate is suited for growing the crop. He also said cacao only grows in a tropical climate and the high demand for chocolate all over the world makes it the ideal crop to grow.

With 60 percent of the population consisting of farmers, Escaño said improving their purchasing power could spell wonders for the country’s economy, as they will be acquiring more things and securing more services, helping other industries thrive.

“Inclusive growth starts with agriculture,” said Escaño. He feels bad when people think being a farmer means being poor when much can be done to improve their status.

“Don’t say, ‘magsasaka lang ako.’ You should be proud. It’s a very important profession.”

But challenges await the sector. When Yolanda/Haiyan struck the country last Nov. 8, it destroyed P9.4 billion worth of rice, corn and other crops, the national disaster council reported. Along with losses to irrigation facilities and other agricultural implements, the sector suffered some P20.26 billion in damage caused by the typhoon.

The agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing sector of the economy grew by 3.8 percent (at current prices) compared to 2013, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board. In contrast, the industry sector grew by 9.1 percent, while services grew by 10.5 percent.

But “without farmers, we will all die with no food to eat,” Escaño pointed out.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 14, 2014.

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