DA launches food sufficiency programs in 2017

MANILA -- The government launched several programs in 2017 to boost the Philippine agriculture and fisheries sectors to provide quality, affordable, and steady food supply for Filipinos.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) also ended the year by pitching in for the Bangon Marawi movement, which aims to rehabilitate the southern city from the ravages of a five-month-long terrorist siege.

In late December, the department gave the affected communities farm equipment, machineries, and inputs like seeds and fingerlings through the Department of National Defense (DND) to let the soldiers lead them in operating the tools and salvaging their farmlands.

In November, the two state departments launched in Metro Manila the "Karne, Isda Supply Suporta sa Masa at Ekonomiya" (KISS ME) marketing project.

The project includes establishing neighborhood farm product outlets that Filipino soldiers wounded in the Marawi battle would manage and market at low prices.

Aside from providing income opportunities for the soldiers, farmers, and fisherfolk, the KISS ME project with wounded soldiers was complementary to the DA's TienDa program launched earlier in the year.

With DA partnering with one of the country's top mall operators, the Ayala Group, TienDa seeks to give food producers direct and steady access to markets by removing multiple layers of middlemen in the supply chain.

In September, the department announced plans to develop a five-year development roadmap for the country's poultry and livestock industry.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel PiAol likewise created a task force that will teach the country's farmers the proper methods of raising chicken and other poultry.

Although PiAol expressed optimism about the country hitting its agriculture growth target for the entire 2017, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported a measly 2.32-percent growth in the third quarter, less than the 2.98-percent year-ago growth, due to lower fisheries output and the avian flu that hit some poultry farms in Central Luzon in August.

As such, the DA sat down and consulted livestock and poultry stakeholders to review the agency's avian flu protocols and study possible ways to control the strain in the future.

We want to reconcile our protocols with those of other countries that have more extensive experience in handling a similar crisis, PiAol said.

In August, the DA launched a new credit facility for farmers called "Kaibigan at Kaagapay Adopt a Farm" (KAKAF) program, which seeks financing from the private sector, mainly Overseas Filipino Workers, to boost rice productivity during the dry season in the 500,000 hectares of irrigated farms nationwide.

Farmers who want to borrow from the facility can choose the seeds and fertilizers to buy and use on their farms.

The Agriculture Secretary has been promoting the use of hybrid seeds among local farmers to raise the chances of doubling their productivity and income, as well as eventually freeing the country from rice imports.

It may be costlier than your regular seed varieties, but come harvest time, you'll yield and earn more, PiAol told the farmers.

Also in August, the DA and its Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) launched in Metro Manila the first Filipino-made multi-mission vessels as a means to curb illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the country.

The agriculture department said MV Lapu-Lapu (MMOV 5001) and MV Francisco Dagohoy (MMOV 5002) were designed to operate in the Philippines' offshore areas and conform to international standards.

The vessels cost around PHP250 million each, built to withstand continuous 24-hour multipurpose operations, and are capable of remaining on station for 30 days, the DA said.

In June, the DA launched the five-year "BalikSiglasaLawa at Ilog" (BASIL) project, which aims to seed the country's major lakes and rivers with 210 million fingerlings of indigenous and non-invasive fish species by 2022.

In the same month, the DA launched another credit facility for both farmers and fishermen called Production Loan Easy Access (PLEA), initially in Surigao del Norte province.

PLEA promotes greater productivity," said PiAol. "The way I see it, this program will eventually reduce farmers' and fisherfolk's dependence on dole-outs from the government. They are now given access to efficient and available credit program for them to acquire what's needed for their livelihood.

In April, the DA partnered with non-profit business advocacy group Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship-Go Negosyo to launch the "Kapatid Agri Mentor Me Program" (KAMMP).

KAMMP aims to provide farmers and fisherfolk entrepreneurial knowledge and use of modern technology so they can start and manage their own enterprises.

In March, the DA opened the farmer assistance phone application called FARMHELP to help farmers and fishermen contact experts for advice on their agricultural and fisheries concerns.

The FARMHELP app also provides its users current market prices and weather forecasts from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration.

The DA also launched in March its so-called National Color-Coded Agricultural Guide Map, which identifies crops that are naturally suitable for particular areas, thus, aiding the farmers in deciding which crop to grow in a particular area at a particular time.

The map also gives data like soil properties, elevation, slope, rainfall, pattern, temperature, and climate-induced hazards.

In the same month, the DA rolled its Foodlane Project in cooperation with the Metro Manila Development Authority and the Philippine National Police.

The Foodlane Project aims to reduce post-harvest losses of farmers from extra toll charges and fees as well as mulcting cops by designating lanes for farm produce-loaded trucks and large vehicles going to market places, where the products are in demand.

The DA and the Department of Trade and Industry also launched early in 2017 the National Roadmap for Cacao and Coffee for ?2017-2022 to develop the two sectors by setting industry targets and priorities.

At the start of 2017, MalacaAang also approved PiAol's proposal for the government to establish at the shallowest part of Philippine Rise a cold storage facility for the yellowfin tuna abundant in the area.

Rather than focus on searching for mining or oil in Philippine Rise, we have to protect that area because I see a PHP25-billion food supply potential there, said PiAol.

It was also in 2017 when the Agriculture Secretary broached with Education Secretary Leonor Briones the idea of including agriculture as a subject in the public elementary and high school curriculum.

Such inclusion would help encourage young people to go into food production, he said.

PiAol said the young generation should get involved in farming and be encouraged to be agri-entrepreneurs.

"I urge the young adults that should you wish to invest in agriculture, organize into groups and present to us your proposals, and we will help you market your products," he said. "DA will provide finance credit assistance."

Source: Philippine News Agency