THE incoming Department of Agriculture secretary, former Cotabato Governor Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol laid out this early his initial plans for the country’s agriculture industry’s direction through a three major program components.
Firm with his commitment on the marching order imposed by President-elect Rodrigo R. Duterte to secure food availability and affordability to Filipinos and stop corruption in the department, Piñol told Sun.Star Davao in a phone interview that he already identified three major components to focus on as an immediate intervention to assist farmers: Fast and effective agricultural technology-transfer to farmers, easy access to financing and efficient marketing for farmer’s produce.
“My task is to make sure that there will be more food for the Filipinos and improve the lives of our farmers and I have initially identified three components on how to achieve that,” Piñol said who is a practicing farmer himself.
He added that one of his first tasks is to see to it that “farmers would be able restore or even surpass the productivity of their farms from El Niño.”
The first component he bared is the fast and effective agricultural technology-transfer to farmers, this, according to Piñol will be best achieved through the nationwide implementation of the School-on-the-Air (SOA) program wherein latest and best agricultural practices and technologies will be shared by DA technical staffs and even the secretary himself through holding a radio program.
“This will be aired to all radio stations nationwide once a week, I believe this will reach more farmers (especially in remote rural areas),” he said. Second is the easier access to financing to farmers especially the small ones.
“This is commonly the huge problem faced by our fellow farmers; they are unable to access easily a loan program from banks. With this, I will be pushing for a micro-lending program to be benefited by most of our small farmers,” Piñol said.
He added that the directive of the President-elect of allocating some P1 billion per region for agriculture programs will also be implemented.
But he was quick to add that he will be proposing of adding another P1 billion to be given to the 20 poorest provinces in the country which will be poured to food production livelihood projects.
Lastly, Piñol emphasized that important component to look into is the marketing of the farmer’s produce.
“We have to assist the farmers to market their products, we should make sure that the market is provided to them and this could be realized through establishing a well-functional regional food terminals,” he said.
He also said that the function of the National Food Authority will be expanded and not be limited to rice and corn only.
“I plan to include poultry, livestock and even vegetables under NFA. They will be responsible of positioning supply where it is needed because not all regions are producing agricultural products,” Piñol said.
After he laid out his initial, immediate intervention Piñol quickly added that in the long run they will go to other areas where they will maximize food productivity and income opportunities for the farmers.
“The focus of our president is the Filipino families, he even said that his governance will be very simple, he will start with the family first. Now in the long run we to go to other areas where we will maximize food productivity and income opportunities for the farmers,” he said.
He also made clear that food security does not only mean rice sufficiency but also food income for the farmers who are involved in tree plantation may it rubber, oil palm, coconut, among others.
“If they have enough income from their farm then they would be able to buy food for their family that is of prime importance” he said.
At present, the newly-appointed agriculture secretary is moving around the country to get to feel and have deeper understanding of the real situation on the agriculture ground.
He also announced that he just met with the representatives of the United Nations World Food Program last Tuesday. Piñol who holds a master in rural economic development was the brain behind Duterte’s campaign program for farmers which can be read on a book he authored entitled “Feeding Millions: Duterte’s food security blueprint.”
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on May 19, 2016.
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