The Philippines is way behind in a number of ways compared to other member countries of ASEAN when it comes to agriculture. The facts and figures that tell us why were presented by Dr. William Dar during a roundtable discussion on the future of Philippine agriculture beyond six years.The event was convened at UP Diliman on July 28, 2016 by StratSearch Foundation headed by Dr. Clarita Carlos.
Dr. Dar is a former agriculture secretary during the first year of the Estrada administration. Then he became the most successful head of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) based in India which he served for a record three terms.
The Philippines has been underperforming in agri productivity. From 1961 to 2012, the annual growth rate in agri productivity in the Philippines is 2.87 percent. This is lower than the 3.73 percent of Indonesia, 4.10 percent of Malaysia, 3.21 percent of Thailand, 3.67 percent of Myanmar, 4.16 percent of Vietnam and 4.32 percent of China.
In the agri-food exports, the Philippines has a miserable record compared to five other Asean countries. In 2014, the Philippines had agri-food exports totaling $6.7 billion compared to $38.8 billion of Indonesia, $26.2 billion of Malaysia, $38.4 billion of Thailand and $24.8 billion of Vietnam.
The scorecard of the Philippines in agri exports is dismal compared to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.
In 2014, the Philippines had only two agri export products that brought in more than $1 billion. These are coconut oil, $1.3 billion and banana, $1.1 billion. It had no agri product that brought in more than $500 million but less than $1 billion.
In contrast, Indonesia had five agri export products that brought in more than $1 billion, namely: palm oil, $17.5B; natural rubber, $4.7B; coconut and palm kernel oil, $2.5B; shrimp $1.8B; and coffee, 1.08B. Indonesia also had five products that brought in more than $500 million but less than $1B each, including cigar and cigarettes, margarine, processed shrimps, cocoa butter and oil cake.
Malaysia had 4 commodities that brought in more than $1B each, namely: palm oil, $12.0B; vegetable oil, hydrogenated, $1.9B; natural rubber, $1.48B and palm kernel and coconut oil, $1.0B. Malaysa also had four commodities that brought in more than $500 million but less than $1B.
The figures from Thailand and Vietnam are also very enviable. Thailand had nine commodities that brought in more than $1 billion each, namely natural rubber, rice, prepared fish, sugar, prepared chicken, starch, prepared shrimp, animal feed and food preparations.
On the other hand, Vietnam had 8 commodities that brought in more than $1B each, namely: coffee beans, rice, shrimps, fish fillet, cashew nuts, natural rubber, prepared shrimp and black pepper.
WHAT CAN BE DONE? – The way to go is to diversity the crops that Filipino farmers plant. The government could promote high value crops like coffee, cacao, rubber, oil palm, livestock and poultry, aquaculture and others. Most of these high-value commodities were neglected in the past in terms of research and financing.
The way to go is to make agriculture an honest-to-goodness industry which means undertaking farming as an honest-to-goodness agribusiness. Making agriculture profitable would be the best enticement for the educated young people to go into agriculture.
FARM MECHANIZATION –This is one other strategy to make farming in the Philippines profitable. Mechanization can make land preparation, planting and harvesting more efficient and economical, at the same time producing products of higher quality.
Engr. Rex Bingabing, outgoing head of PhilMech, for instance, showed examples of how farm mechanization can benefit Philippine agriculture at the roundtable discussion. For instance, the average cost of producing palay in the Philippines is P11 per kilo. By employing mechanical transplanting and harvesting the cost of production could be reduced to just over P7 per kilo.
Mechanization, of course, can be adopted in other crops as well as livestock and poultry.
AGRITOURISM – A law on farm tourism was passed during the last Congress. If implemented right, this could encourage young, educated entrepreneurs to go into developing agritourist destinations. And this could help boost the country’s performance in agriculture.