Seven Deadly Sins | Opinion of the applicant

I have long argued that agriculture is far too important to be left to agriculture department (DA) alone. Our agriculture and fisheries sector is the concern of all Filipinos, because it is on it that our ability to feed our people depends, while providing important products other than food. Last week, I suggested that getting back to the two basics – our people and our land – should be the top priority in planning the way forward for the nation. Having discussed the former, particularly in terms of solving our grave education crisis, I now turn to our land, particularly to maximize the value and benefits we derive from our farms, and from the coastal waters and interior.

Of the three major economic sectors, agriculture is the most evenly distributed across the country’s regions. In stark contrast, Metro Manila and Calabarzon alone already account for over half of our services gross domestic product, while for our industry’s GDP, over half comes from Calabarzon, Metro Manila and Central Luzon alone. Agriculture is truly our most inclusive economic sector and our best bet for achieving inclusive economic development.

The fact that the new president has taken his time in appointing his secretary of agriculture suggests that he sees the success of his presidency crucially depending on the performance of the sector. A reliable source tells me that he would like to see a major overhaul and restructuring of the agricultural bureaucracy if Philippine agriculture were to cease to lag far behind that of our neighbors, whose agricultural experts we once mentored. So he needs a secretary of agriculture who can actually preside over such a big cleaning and renovation of the house. Having studied the sector for decades, I concluded long ago that what Philippine agriculture needs most is fundamental bureaucratic and institutional reform, without which it would simply continue to hold back our progress. overall economy.

It’s not a problem of lack of knowledge or technology to increase productivity; we have had it for a long time at the University of the Philippines Los Baños and our other agricultural knowledge centers, where we have even taught our neighbors since the 1960s. Rather, it is our persistent failure to ensure that our farmers apply and benefit from this knowledge correctly and widely on farms across the country, because of what I would call the “seven deadly sins” of our DA. The DA (1) persisted in a centralized, largely top-down approach to sector management, despite the decentralization mandated by the 1991 Local Government Code; (2) was unduly obsessed with self-sufficiency in rice, to the relative detriment of other crops, both in terms of attention and budget; (3) excessively focused on agricultural production and neglected the rest of the agricultural value chain for a holistic systems perspective; (4) was largely structured and organized around products rather than the core core functions it must perform under the mandated decentralized setup; (5) relied primarily on protecting our farmers by closing our domestic markets to foreign competition, instead of encouraging them to educate themselves so that they can compete well and prosper in our domestic and export markets; (6) failed to respond to the fragmentation of our farms resulting from land reform and generational separation, through effective consolidation and consolidation programs that our neighbors had used to good effect; and (7) neglected to work with public and private financial institutions to ensure farmers have broad access to working capital, so that they can maximize the use of superior technologies and inputs, take advantage of improved productivity and thus increase the income and well-being of their families.

Furthermore, it is no secret that a large part of our agricultural budget has not been used wisely for the benefit of farmers, but ends up in the wrong pockets of a bureaucracy traditionally known for its pots -of wine and its corruption. I have been writing about suggested solutions to all of these “sins” for the past 20 years. But old habits die hard and we have yet to see substantial reform in the agricultural bureaucracy since then. Meanwhile, Filipino farmers and food consumers continue to suffer.

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