THE Department of Agriculture will spend P26 million for a study on the Philippines’s rice economy and compare it with those in other rice-producing Southeast Asian countries.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said the department is bankrolling the study in the hope of mitigating the possible adverse effects of the agricultural free-trade system that will be established as part of the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) economic integration by 2015.
Asean groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The agriculture chief also said the study will serve as a management tool in crafting interventions to make the Philippines competitive in rice production, processing and marketing. He added that the study would also consider the effects of climate change on the country’s rice industry, as well as ways on how to overcome them.
“Makikiisa tayo sa paggawa ng baseline study sa industriya ng bigas, kabilang ng ating mga karatig bansa sa Asean. Layunin nating magkaroon ng mas malalim na kaalaman, lalo pa at inaasahan nating mabubuksan ang merkado ng Asya sa iba’t ibang uri ng pagkain sa darating na 2015 sa ilalim ng Asean Economic Community [AEC],” Alcala told attendees of the Second Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers Awards at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on March 15.
According to the Asean web site, the AEC—adopted during the 13th Asean Summit in Singapore in November 2007—envisions a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region, and a region of equitable economic development, fully integrated into the global economy.
AEC aims to transform Asean into a region with free movement of goods, services, investment and skilled labor, and freer flow of capital, the Asean secretariat said on the web site.
Alcala said free trade among Asean countries in 2015 would definitely affect local production, marketing and distribution, as well as farmers’ income. He added that it is imperative to conduct the study, and it is better to be prepared.
For his part, Agriculture Assistant Secretary and National Rice Program (NRP) Coordinator Dante S. Delima said the study will be conducted by experts from the Philippine Rice Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute.
The study, which the NRP will fund, also aims to determine various government policies that affect competitiveness in rice production and marketing of commercial and hybrid-rice varieties.
Delima said the study is important, especially in light of President Aquino’s recent pronouncement that agriculture, along with tourism and infrastructure, is among the top priorities of his administration to attract foreign investments.
Marvyn N. Benaning
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