DA targets farm logistics gains

IN order to reduce the price of produce in the country, the Department of Agriculture (DA) aims to enhance farm logistics and reduce middlemen from the value chain.

Agriculture chief Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. presented his priorities for the agriculture sector during the plenary session on the department’s 2024 budget on Wednesday.

“In order to optimize yield, we must process our produce after harvest. Our goal is to launch them into the market for the lowest feasible price,” said Laurel.

Some measures he mentioned to boost the farming sector were the use of fertilizers and technologies, mechanizing farming to increase food production, expanding irrigation coverage and providing farmers with better seeds.

In order to optimize yield, Laurel also noted that harvested products must be processed right away and to reduce the price of produce, he said logistics need to be enhanced.

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“We must also lessen the [number of] times these products exchange hands by reducing middlemen,” he added.

“By increasing production, we will hopefully lessen importation,” Laurel said, acknowledging the growing trade deficit as the nation imports more fish, rice and onions.

According to the data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, the country’s balance of trade in agricultural products in 2022 had a bigger deficit of $11.8 billion since farm imports increased at a rate twice as fast as agricultural exports.

In 2020, the trade deficit was $6.38 billion and it stood at $8.89 billion in 2021.

The Agriculture department noted that the Philippines will benefit from increased domestic production in two ways — first, it will assist local farmers earn more money. Second, it will save foreign exchange that might be used to fund new ventures that would generate employment.

The value of agricultural imports was $19.3 billion in the previous year, this is about P1 trillion at the current exchange rate, according to the DA.

While the agriculture sector contributes about 9 percent to the domestic economy, it accounts for one in every four jobs with 10 million farmers and fishermen considered poor.