Enhancing agricultural productivity

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Agriculture always played an important role in Philippine economy. We are an agricultural country with a land area of 30 million hectares, of which 7.19 million hectares are agricultural land as of 2012, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the government’s primary socioeconomic think tank, cited the important role of agriculture in reducing poverty. In a 2017 paper, entitled “Outlook for the Philippine Economy and Agro-industry to 2030: The Role of Productivity Growth,” it mentioned that up to two-thirds of all poor workers in the country are agricultural workers.

It further stressed that growth in agriculture has significantly lagged those of the other basic sectors, citing the average growth in agriculture over the period 2011 to 2016 was just 2 percent while that of industry and services was 7 percent.

The paper likewise described that the poor performance of agriculture is “worrisome” in view of rising food needs of a growing population, the precarious state of the country’s natural resource base and the adverse impacts of climate change which I would discuss at length.

In the fourth quarter of 2016, agriculture contracted by 1.11 percent. According to the PSA, the devastation wrought by typhoons “Karen” and “Lawin” pulled down production in the crops and fisheries subsectors.

A year before, during the last quarter of 2015, PSA likewise mentioned the long dry spell and damage caused by typhoon “Lando” negatively affecting the agriculture sector. The crops subsector, for instance, recorded a 2.69 percent decline in output during that time.

Palay and corn farms, PSA mentioned, suffered the most from the long dry spell and typhoon “Lando” declining by 3.78 percent and 6.04 percent, respectively.

It is for this reason that when I was in Congress, I was among the authors of House Bill 6923 which aims to strengthen the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) in the hope of alleviating the financial burden of farmers as a result of uncompensated losses arising from the destruction of crops.

The PCIC shall insure qualified farmers and fishermen against losses arising not only from natural calamities but also plant and fish diseases and pest infestations. It shall also provide insurance coverage for palay and corn crops, high-value commercial crops, livestock and aquaculture and fishery products.

Non-agricultural assets, such as machine and equipment and life and accident term insurance coverage for farmers and fishermen are likewise included.

The proposed measure has been approved by the House of Representatives last January and transmitted to the Senate. We are confident this bill will be passed into law along with the creation of the Department of Disaster Resilience.

By broadening the coverage of mandatory insurance of crops amid the recurrence of calamities and disasters, we will not only assist farmers but also keep them away from debts.

p: wjg

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