Regional agricultural and fisheries councils in the country have made several recommendations to hasten the development and modernization of the Philippine agricultural sector, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

In a statement yesterday, the DA said regional agricultural and fisheries councils met with Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. to submit their recommendations.

'The recommendations presented by the councils were varied and included issues affecting the production of rice, fish, and other aquatic resources, poultry and livestock, corn and feed crops, high value crops, including rubber and fiber crops, coconut, as well as domestic trade and mechanization,' the DA said.

Among the recommendations are the establishment of cold storage facilities for vegetables, including onions, laboratories for biosecurity concerns, as well as the construction of farm-to-market roads or other modes for faster movement of agricultural products.

The regional councils also pushed for the construction of more irrigation facilities and the establishment of local nurseries and seed banks to ensure high quality planting materials and seeds.

They also recommended the creation of a Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

In addition, the councils called for the establishment of a data center for timely agricultural statistics.

Other recommendations made by the regional councils include the conversion of rice competitive enhancement funds to rice price subsidy; mechanization of farm processes, including those for high value crops and fiber; widening and intensifying soil testing to optimize land use and productivity; establishment of inland fisheries and hatcheries in upland areas; revival of direct farmer linkage to market via Kadiwa centers; the timely release of hybrid seed and fertilizer interventions; and the implementation of the higher biofuel blend to help the coconut industry.

Laurel welcomed the private sectors' push for greater spending on agricultural infrastructure and mechanization to hasten the farm sector's modernization, increase productivity, and ensure the country is food secure.

'If we can work together well, then I think we can move forward faster,' Laurel told the regional agricultural and fisheries councils.

The Agriculture chief said the dialogue with regional councils gave him a clearer perspective on how to pursue agricultural modernization.

He said a 10-point agenda is now being finalized by the DA to address issues holding back the progress of the country's farm sector and its stakeholders, particularly farmers and fisherfolk.

Laurel said more infrastructures, including warehouses, seaports, food terminals, and roads would be built to help bring down the cost of food.

'The DA is also working towards digitalization and a thorough review of the minimum access volume to rationalize food importation,' he said.

Laurel said more consultations would be undertaken in the future and pledged to find funds needed to substantially address all the issues and recommendations submitted by agricultural and fisheries councils across the country.

The DA stressed that agriculture accounts for four in every 10 jobs in the Philippines, but the sector's contribution to the domestic economy is less than 10 percent.

'A dramatic improvement in the farm sector could generate more jobs and lead to faster growth of the economy, not to mention tame inflation and lessen dependence on imported agricultural products,' it said.

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