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‘Higher agri productivity can boost growth’

Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual with Business and Politics host Dante ‘Klink’ Ang 2nd.PHOTO BY J. GERARD SEGUIA

THE agriculture sector needs to perform better if the economic growth the country is presently enjoying is to be sustained, Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo Pascual said.

Guesting on SMNI’s “Business and Politics” program hosted by The Manila Times Chairman and CEO Dante “Klink” Ang 2nd, Pascual said the 10 percent contributed by remittances from abroad to the gross domestic product (GDP) fuels his optimism “that resource1s are coming into the country despite all troubles abroad.”

The big challenge, however, is attaining self-sufficiency in food, which can only be achieved by improving agricultural productivity, Pascual said.

To help the Department of Agriculture (DA) push food self-sufficiency, he said the Department of Trade and Industry, through its Cooperative Development Authority, is focusing on establishing more farming cooperatives.

Pascual stressed the need to train the people who will improve the management of cooperatives.

“There have been abuses, there have been failure agency issues, [and] management pursuing interests that are not really for the farmers. So, we need to address all those things,” Pascual said, referring to cooperatives.

“If we can organize the cooperatives, then we can start mechanizing farm operations,” he said.

The DTI is also encouraging large companies to go into farming, Pascual said. He mentioned a joint venture with a foreign company in the coconut sector.

He also underscored the need to entice the children of farmers to go into agriculture, saying the farmers themselves are discouraging their children from taking up farming because it is a back-breaking job.

The DTI will provide scholarships to farmers’ children who will enroll in agricultural colleges, and learn about farming technology, Pascual said.

The secretary also said the DTI is streamlining the supply chain to help revive the agriculture sector.

“We are working in partnership with DOTr [Department of Transportation], DPWH [Department of Public Works and Highways]. We need a cold storage chain, for example, so that farmers will not be beholden to traders who buy the products upon harvest, because the farmers cannot keep their harvest [if they have no storage facilities],” he Pascual said.

The trade sector is already talking with the administration about funding for setting up a cold storage chain and other facilities to enhance the harvest of farmers, he said.

The plan is for cooperatives to manage the cold storage and other farms produce storage with funding from the government, he said.

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