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Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol yesterday said government must invest heavily in agriculture and fisheries sectors to spur economic growth and generate employment in the countryside.
Piñol told the Senate Committee on Agriculture that efforts have to be made to correct the lamentable situation the farmers and fishermen are in.
He called on the lawmakers to review the Agri-Agra Law and impose stiffer penalties on banks skirting requirements to extend loans to the agri and fisheries sectors.
“Easy credit access and financing must be made available to the agriculture and fisheries sectors,” Piñol said.
He recommended the shift in the irrigation paradigm from huge and multi-billion peso mega-dams to smaller and faster-to-complete systems.
Piñol informed the committee that the first proto-type of a solar-powered irrigation system is now being established in M’lang, North Cotabato.
He called on the funding and implementation of the Agricultural Mechanization and Modernization Law.
“The use of mechanical harvester has reduced post harvest losses and expenses on the part of the grain farmers,” he said.
Piñol said the absence of post-harvest facilities such as dryers, silos and modern processing equipment must be prioritized.
“The establishment of post-harvest facilities will give the grain farmers the leverage against traders and middlemen who exploit them during peak harvest season.
Piñol cited statistics provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization showing that 40 percent of the total fish catch in the country is lost to spoilage.
“The country’s fisheries sector must be provided with post-harvest facilities like ice-making and cold storage facilities.
He said the Corporate Farming System must be institutionalized to allow cooperatives, farmers associations and even enterprising Local Government Units to provide their members with support of good seeds and sufficient fertilizers and farm inputs.
The crop insurance system must be modified, according to Piñol.
“The current system where farmers and fishermen are compensated only after their crops are totally damaged by typhoons, floods and drought should be amended,” he said. “The new insurance scheme should be based in losses index.
Lastly, Piñol said the Senate should consider the establishment of a pension fund for farmers and fishermen.