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Sec. Piñol and food security

By: Johnny Dayang

Unlike previous Secretaries of the Department of Agriculture, its incumbent head, Sec. Manny Piñol, a former journalist with a passion for farming, has remarkably set the benchmark on how best to address issues that affect the nation’s food security.

Immediately after assuming leadership of the department, he declared unabashedly to make water available for free to irrigation farms, a move that can will translate into higher rice yield per hectare and lower cost for farmers.

To ensure the fishery sector can regain its viability, Pinoy has taken initiatives to strengthen the coalition of coastal fishermen, providing them bancas and necessary fishing gears to improve their catch and their livelihood. For a segment of society that has been overlooked, such gesture of concern has redefined the importance of fishermen in national life.

In remote villages where tilling practices remain antiquated, the department has taken a more active role in farm mechanization through speedy distribution of tractors and post-harvest equipments, and opening farm-to-market roads that were merely paid lip-service in the past.

The greatest test Sec. Piñol had to confront was the recent avian flu outbreak in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija. The outbreak was not just overwhelming; it struck right at the heart of an industry that has become an important provider of the country’s table menu.

That nearly a million fowls and birds had to be culled to arrest the serious infestation and shield the vital poultry industry from collapse, was a decision Pinol had to make to keep the public safe, despite the opposition by certain industry players.

To help save investors from heavy losses, he worked hard to provide them realistic state subsidies that were released timely, with assurances of further financial support if funds are available. President Rodrigo Duterte himself recognized the urgent necessity to keep the poultry industry stable and viable.

The overall focus of the Agriculture department’s initiatives is to ensure food adequacy and security, and the poultry industry’s sustainability.

Food security does not merely mean supply sufficiency; it has something to do also with our national capability to feed our people without depending on imports, and to increase yields that translate into the export of farm products.

For all his efforts, most of them low-key, Secretary Piñol deserves commendation and a sincere tap on his shoulders.