By MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR
The Philippine government, which went ahead with the liberalization of rice importation in 2019 and is now contemplating on allowing unlimited importation on sugar, is aiming to increase the country’s agriculture exports.
With renewed vigor and strategy, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said it wants to strongly partner with the private sector and organized farmers’ and fishers’ groups to further increase the country’s exports of farm and fishery products, with emphasis on diversified and expanded value chain from farms and fishponds to processing.
“We will push for more exports of farm and fishery products to propel the agri-industrialization of the Philippine countryside,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar during a meeting of the Export Development Council (EDC) last week.
“We need to have a systematic and long-term strategy to develop and promote exports of both raw and processed agricultural and fishery products,” Secretary Dar said, as export promotion is among the eight paradigms under the DA’s “new thinking for agriculture,” he added.
The EDC is the export promotion arm of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) mandated to institutionalize the national export drive that will enable the country’s products to compete globally.
It was the first time in recent years that a DA chief attended an EDC meeting, said Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show that Philippines’ agriculture exports declined by 7 percent in 2018 to US$6.12 billion from US$6.58 billion in 2017.
From January to November last year, it was even lower at US$5.875 billion, with bananas accounting for 30 percent at $1.77 billion.
Coconut oil exports came in second at US$837.6 million during the 11-month period, followed by processed food and beverages (US$726.6 million), pineapple (US$545 million), tuna (US$390 million), processed tropical fruits (US$267 million), desiccated coconut (US$227.7 million), seaweeds and carrageenan (US$221.8 million), fresh and preserved fish (US$214 million), and unmanufactured tobacco (US$141 million).
Dar, for his part, challenged the country’s exporters to diversify their products and to include emerging export winners like fresh and processed tropical fruits, natural rubber, and other coconut products like coconut water and coco sugar.
“With the DA’s new thinking for Philippine agriculture, we can do much better if we bring our resources together. The way forward really is for the government to strongly partner with the private sector,” he added.
He then instructed concerned DA agencies — specifically the Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR), Philippine Coconut Authority (DA-PCA), and High-Value Crops Development Program — to elevate their game in partnering with big agribusiness firms, small and medium enterprises, and organized farmers’ and fishers’ to develop more innovative and competitive agri-fishery export products.
During the EDC meeting, Dar emphasized the need for aggressive and sustained export promotion as he urged the private sector to help small farmers and fisherfolk through the “big brother-small brother” approach.