Despite plans to transform the country into an industrial economy, the Philippines remains primarily agricultural. With over 30 million hectares of land, 47% of Philippine soil is agricultural land. In 2021, 9.6% of the total GDP of the Philippines was from the agriculture, forestry, and fishing sectors.
There has been a decline in agricultural productivity in the Philippines in recent decades. Small farming operations and unsustainable practices have not been profitable for agricultural workers.
Deforestation and depleted fish stocks are also causing serious problems for food supply across the country. The importance of agribusiness in the Philippines reflects the need for stronger food security in the country.
How important is agribusiness to the Philippine economy, and how can this sector be supported to manage natural resources and provide livelihood for agricultural workers? We look at the requirements that will enable the industry to improve food security for the country.
The main types of agribusinesses in the Philippines are crop production, animal production, forestry and logging, fisheries and aquaculture, and agri-support services and manufacturing. Coconut accounts for the largest average harvest area, followed by sugarcane and industrial crops. Agricultural workers perform crop and livestock preparation and production, or fishing and processing, as well as breeding and farm management.
The Philippines is the top market for agricultural exports in Southeast Asia. However, the country has been subject to rising food inflation because of the global supply chain crisis and high fuel costs. In emerging Asia, the Philippines is the most food-insecure country as it continues to face challenges in food self-sufficiency. Among the country’s major sectors, farmers and fisherfolk also have the highest poverty incidence.
Many workers throughout the spectrum of agribusinesses in the Philippines lack proper training in basic farming techniques and have no access to rural financial services, and many smallholder farms are not equipped with technology.
The industry is also not subject to protectionism, or policies restricting international trade to support the local industry. Transforming the Philippines’ agriculture and food systems will require diversification, support for the acquisition of new technologies, and strengthening linkages between production and processing.
Food security advocates in the Philippines continue to call for a review of the government’s strategic plan for agricultural and rural development to ensure stronger support for the country’s agricultural workers.
DA senior undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, who represented the country at the 44th Meeting of ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Forestry, also cited the importance of regional cooperation and robust coordination, especially as the region recovers from the pandemic.
The country’s new vision for agriculture should include plans for improving the resilience of agribusinesses in the Philippines. This includes increasing public spending for research and development, biosecurity systems, infrastructure, and innovations that support agricultural workers and agribusiness startups. Enabling small farmers with technical knowledge and access to finance will also help upgrade their businesses and increase productivity.
Philippine agribusinesses require higher investments and stronger regulatory systems to help the industry overcome supply chain issues and improve productivity in crop production. The industry will require support in order to strengthen its capacity, and with new policies and opportunities in place to support agricultural workers in the Philippines, it can overcome market failure.
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