A TWO-DAY Mindanao Agricultural Summit that began August 30 was initiated by the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) at the Grand Caprice restaurant in Cagayan de Oro to highlight issues besetting agricultural cooperatives in Mindanao.

Themed "Agriculture at the Heart of Cooperatives", the summit aimed to increase the contribution of agricultural cooperatives to the whole agricultural sector which has not seen significant growth in the past six years, according to one of the speakers of the event.

"This summit hopefully will be able to address the problems of the agricultural cooperatives here in Mindanao and will be a step towards the betterment of agriculture in this part of the country," said Norman William Kraft of the Agriculture Credit and Policy Council (ACPC), one of the summit’s guest speakers.

Kraft said even though more than seventy percent of the population of the Philippines is in rural agriculture, the sector has not seen any significant growth and has only contributed 12 percent of the country's current Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Kraft cited the performance of the manufacturing and Services sectors which, he said, have been continually growing as compared with agriculture.

This is the reason, he said, why even if the country's economy is rising, only the privileged and only a few of the marginalized sector of the society are able to feel the country's economic improvement.

"Mindanao is dubbed as the 'Fruit Basket of the Philippines' and in terms of the climate and its other physical qualities it really has the capability of being such, more than Luzon and Visayas actually. However, because of some social and economic issues like the civil conflicts, agriculture has not been given enough attention for growth," said Kraft.

Over 300 agricultural cooperatives in Mindanao participated in the summit with representatives coming from Caraga, the Davao region, Zamboanga Peninsula, Soccksargen, Armm, and Northern Mindanao.

"The biggest problem for us now is the budget. We are only given about P300 million which is even lesser than the other priorities of the government. That is why we organized this event to be able to voice out the problems that the agriculture has been going through because we believe that what this country lacks is the empowerment of the marginalized sector" said Paisal Cali, the CDA Administrator.

Key topics to be discussed in the summit include the 'Prospects and Challenges of the Asean Economic Integration' to be discussed by resource speaker Roel Ravanera, the Director of Searsolin and 'The Role of Agri-Coops for Peace in Mindanao' by the Armm CDA Regional Administrator Dimnatang Radia.