Economists: Reforms needed to revive agri-fishery sector

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STRUCTURAL reforms are needed to remedy the plight of the country’s agri-fishery sector and reduce poverty among farmers and fishers, economists said during the country’s 2021 Food Security Summit organized by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Dr. V. Bruce Tolentino, current Monetary Board member of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and former DA undersecretary for policy and planning, said reforms must be made on the continued bias against agriculture in government budgetary allocation.

“In the short term, it is appropriate to organize programs and activities that provide support to farmers and fishers as the reform process takes place,” Tolentino said in a statement.

He highlighted the importance of agriculture credit and insurance to ease the plight of agriculture stakeholders.

According to an earlier report, the agriculture sector contracted by 2.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, pulling down the full-year growth rate to a negligible -0.2 percent.

For former socio-economic planning secretary Cielito Habito, agriculture is not the DA’s job alone.

“Farmers, bureaucrats, scientists, non-government workers, large and small entrepreneurs, bankers and financiers, traders, logistics providers and workers, as well as the general consumers, all have valuable roles to play,” Habito said.

He added that “food self-sufficiency is best pursued via meaningful and effective support for farmers to improve productivity and competitiveness.”

Habito lamented that compared with nine countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Philippines ranked seventh with a food security scorecard of 73, beating Cambodia and Laos based on the 2020 The Economist Global Food Security Index.

The concept of food security, explained Habito, involves a combination of food availability, affordability, quality and safety and resilience against risks.

“A nation can be food self-sufficient yet food insecure, and can be food-secure even if not food self-sufficient,” he added.

Ramon Clarete, dean of the University of the Philippines School of Economics, focused his discussion on prospects of the country to participate in the global food security trade.

He pointed out that a total of US$249.7 million in potential export earnings were not captured by the Philippines, of which $148 million is for the US market.

Competition also plays a crucial role in trade, as he noted that traditional markets such as China, South Korea and Japan slowed down imports of Philippine agriculture products, Clarete said during the summit. (JOB)