Government working to improve agriculture sector’s performance, says official

MANILA, Feb. 4 (PNA) — Malacanang said it continues to look for ways to develop the country’s agriculture sector for it to contribute to the national economy, attain food self-sufficiency and eliminate anomalous transactions in rice importations.

In a press briefing in Malacanang on Tuesday, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. said the Cabinet Economic Cluster has discussed the agriculture sector several times to find ways on how to improve its performance.

The agriculture sector is lagging behind manufacturing and services, Coloma said, noting that the administration wants it to be at par with other sectors in terms of contributions to the national economy.

For instance in 2013, while the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) increased to 7.2 percent, the agriculture sector’s contribution is only at 1.1 percent, way below the services and manufacturing sectors, Coloma said.

“Kaya’t bahagi iyan ng pangkalahatang pagturing sa buong kontribusyon ng agricultural sector lalong-lalo na’t ito ay nilalahukan ng pinakamaraming Pilipino na magsasaka at mangingisda,” he said.

He also said the sector may need systemic reforms to improve its productivity and contribute to overall economic development of the country and at the same time eliminate corruption in food importations.

To stop anomalous transactions in rice importations, Coloma said the Department of Agriculture, through the National Food Authority council, decided to stop extending privileges to farmer cooperatives that do not have the capability to import rice.

The Department of Agriculture is also preparing new rice importation procedures to address loopholes in the system that are being exploited by some unscrupulous traders.

With regards to attaining rice self-sufficiency, Coloma said the administration’s mindset is not about ensuring enough supply of rice in the country but improving the performance of the entire agriculture sector.

“Ang nabubuong pananaw sa Gabinete hinggil dito ay hindi sapat na tingnan lamang iyong rice self-sufficiency kasi iyong rice ay isa lamang sa mga alternatibong produkto sa pagsasaka at maaring sa isang taon o sa iba’t-ibang lugar, magkaroon ng insentibo ang mga magsasaka na ibang produkto iyong kanilang pagtutuunan ng pansin,” he said. (PNA)