Dr. William Dollente Dar, acting secretary of the Department of Agriculture (DA), bares “new thinking” as strategy to achieve four-fold agriculture growth and double farmers’ income.
In his acceptance speech early this week, Dar, who have served as the DA secretary from 1998 to 1999, noted that Philippine agriculture, for the past decade, only grew 1.1% annually, while population has been increasing at 1.8% yearly.
“We are faced with the painful and stark reality that Philippine agriculture has barely grown this past decade. Today we can only produce 93% of our rice requirements, and import the balance….President Duterte himself has acknowledged that the agriculture sector is the weakest link in our economy,” he said.
With “new thinking,” the department targets growth for at least 2% from August 2019 to July 2020, 2.5-3% in 2021, and 3-4% in 2022.
As the revised DA vision and mission, “new thinking” is composed of eight paradigms, in which the department’s strategy will revolve. These include modernization, industrialization, promotion of exports, and farm consolidation. “Rebooting” the department’s way of conducting things will also cover infrastructure and roadmap development, higher budget and investments, and legislative support.
“We believe these imperatives will pave the way to developing, strengthening, and nurturing the country’s agriculture and fishery sector, and in particular achieve our vision of prosperous farmers and fishers, and a thriving globally-competitive agriculture sector,” the secretary who preferred to be called a servant-leader said.
A 2016 awardee of The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL), Dar emphasized that the department’s policies and programs must be innovative, transformative, and consultative.
“In particular, the programs and projects should pass the five-way test. They should be productive, competitive, profitable, resilient and sustainable,” he said.
In his first 100 days in office, he intends to ensure the proper and efficient implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law, particularly the management of the P10-B RCEF and the formulation of Rice Industry Roadmap. Philippine Rice Research Institute, where he serves as the chair of its Board of Trustees, is in-charge of the seed component.
Dar also said the department will work with the top 10 rice producing provinces to help them directly buy, process and sell rice. Available credit will also be ensured to the top-rice producing provinces.
“Let us all unite to provide graft-free, swift, quality, service to our beloved farmers and fishers, agri stakeholders, and partners. Join us in nurturing [harvest and income],” he added.
As DA secretary under the Estrada administration, he supported and ensured the implementation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, which resulted in a 9.6% agricultural growth. He also led the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, a global agricultural research institute, which helped farmers in India, Africa, Philippines, and other dryland countries. Dar has quadrupled the income and investments poured into this institute, from USD 21M in 2000 to USD 85M in 2014.