Officials of the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) led by Senior Undersecretary Domingo F. Panganiban met with delegates of the European Union-ASEAN Business Council (EU-ABC) and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) on May 24 to discuss mutual interests in agricultural development, foreign trades and investments, economic growth, and other potential areas of cooperation.
Among those discussed were the need to address the high prices of sugar in the local market. As of the May 24 report of the DA-Surveillance, Monitoring, and Enforcement Group, refined sugar ranges between P86 to P110 per kilo in Metro Manila. Washed sugar is priced at P82 to P90 per kilo, while a kilo of brown sugar can be bought at P78 to P90.
Administrator Pablo Luis Azcona of the DA-Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) revealed that the country’s sugarcane production is expected to increase to 1.78 million metric tons (MMT) and a sugar importation volume of 440,000 MT to cover supply gaps. Currently, the Philippines has about 390,000 hectares of sugarcane plantations—90 percent of which are owned by small-scale farmers.
With over five million Filipinos dependent on the sugarcane industry, Admin. Azcona shared that the DA-SRA intends to increase the industry’s productivity and profitability through the adaptation of climate-resilient agricultural practices, the promotion of drought- and wet season-resistant sugarcane varieties, the upgrading of select mills in Luzon, the consolidation of farmers into 30-hectare farm sizes, and the mechanization and modernization of plantations in the country.
The DA also highlighted various efforts towards food security in the Philippines, which includes promoting opportunities in agriculture among the Filipino youth through the Young Farmers Challenge, reviewing the Department’s key commodity investment plans through the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP), promoting accessible and affordable healthcare for local agricultural laborers and their families, and improving local food production and competitiveness while also opening the country’s doors to collaborative activities with the EU and other foreign partners.
With the World Risk Index 2022 ranking the Philippines as the number one country with the highest disaster risk worldwide, the DA also stressed the importance of immediately mitigating and addressing the impacts of climate change to the Philippine agri-fishery sector.
Some of the measures being implemented by the DA include allotting Php 1 billion for its Quick Response Fund, attending fora and other engagements related to climate change, working with every stakeholder towards climate and disaster resiliency, developing climate-resilient crop varieties, advocating for eco-friendly agricultural practices, and just recently, preparing for the El Niño phenomena by the third or fourth quarter of 2023.
The Department also underscored its mission to build climate-resilient livelihoods and communities through the implementation of the Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA) Program, the Philippine Fisheries and Coastal Resiliency (FishCoRe) Project, and the Mindanao Inclusive Agriculture Development Project (MIADP), among many others.
“European businesses are at the forefront of innovation and sustainable practices in agriculture, and today we stand ready to share these best practices and expertise to support the continued growth and advancement of the agriculture sector in the Philippines. By leveraging our expertise in agribusiness management, sustainable farming techniques, and market access, we hope to uplift the livelihoods of Filipino farmers and contribute to poverty reduction in rural areas,” EU-ABC Vice Chairman Tassilo Brinzer said.
ECCP Executive Director Florian Gotten expressed delight in the Philippines’ growth and potential, saying, “The efforts of this administration, in particular what President Marcos Jr. is doing by traveling around the globe inviting investors to come to the Philippines, are slowly picking up. The Philippines is now on the map and I think that this is a new era, a golden age for investments into the Philippines. We are very much optimistic that we will see more European companies coming here, supporting your efforts, and maybe reckon trying to work with you to bring the agriculture in this country to the next level.”
Senior Undersecretary Panganiban thanked the European delegation’s interest to collaborate with the Philippine government for the advancement of the latter’s agri-fishery sector, which he said will benefit not only the Philippines but also other countries.
“Increased cooperation and foreign investments spell more jobs, higher incomes, better access to basic commodities, less inflation, and collaboration and partnership over confrontation. The more unbounded the flow of both, the stronger the momentum for economic prosperity and peace among nations,” he noted. By Krystelle Ymari A. Vergara