By Manny PiÃ±ol
Philippine agriculture will have to go back to the basics and food production will be the major thrust of the administration of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
Duterte, Mayor for 23 years of Davao City which is one of the country's top food producing areas, said the government's agriculture programs over the years have strayed to so many other activities and the primary task of producing food has been neglected, "Over the years, the production of cash crops has dominated the agriculture sector's activities.
We have forgotten that the main task of government is to ensure that food is available and affordable to the ordinary Filipino," Duterte said in a recent activity where he talked about Philippine agriculture.
In his "Back to the Basics" approach in Philippine agriculture, Duterte said his administration, right after his assumption as President, would immediately embark on the following tasks:
1. Determine the kind of food items that the market needs and quantify the volume food that the Filipino people would consume every year.
2. Identify which regions or provinces of the country would be suitable in the production of the needed food items. This would entail a nation-wide study to produce an agriculture guide map which would indicate soil suitability, climatic conditions and rainfall patterns so that farmers would be know what to plant or raise.
3. Once the key production areas are identified based on crop suitability, government will come in with the needed interventions to support the farmers in their production.
4. Irrigation services must be considered a vital government obligation to support the growth of Philippine economy, just like the network of roads being used for free. The country's rice farmers should be supported by providing them free irrigation water and should be allowed to manage their own irrigation systems for themselves without being obliged to pay for the irrigation fees.
5. Basic infrastructures to facilitate the transport of food and agricultural products from the key production areas to the market will be given priority by the Duterte Presidency.
6. Food terminals complete with cold storage facilities will be established in key production areas to serve as the delivery point for the farmers' produce. From there, the food items will be distributed to other areas where these are needed in a concept called "Food Positioning."
7. The processing of food products at the local level would be given the needed support by the Duterte Presidency to add more value to the farmers' produce and create jobs in the countryside.
8. The country's potential as a top producer of aqua and marine products given the fact that it is a country which has the fifth longest coastline in the world would be given focus and support by the Duterte Presidency.
9. Farmers in areas which could not grow food products will be supported by the Duterte Presidency by introducing crops suited to the area with the needed technical and funding support.
10. Environmental protection and ecological balance will be given priority by the Duterte Presidency to ensure the sustainable production of healthy food for the country.
"No more agricultural experiments. We go back to the basics. Our farmers should only produce what is needed by the market and what the Filipinos would consume," Duterte said in outlining a new paradigm in Philippine agriculture.
Duterte's "Back to the Basics" approach in agriculture which spells out that farm production must be guided by the demand of the market makes him the only Presidential candidate to present a solid program on how to feed the 110-million Filipinos.
(Photo credit: ICRC photo shows farmers of Tubu, Monkayo, Davao del Norte repair their irrigation canals with the support of the International Red Cross; Bankerohan vegetable trading post shown in a photo downloaded from Mindanews.)