NEWLY appointed Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. said in his first briefing as head of his department that he will favor raising domestic production over importing food to fill supply gaps.
“I am not pro-importation, I am pro-production, I was a producer in my past life. I believe that the Filipinos can produce more,” Mr. Laurel, who formerly headed a commercial fishing company, said on Monday.
He said the key to raising production is to modernize the industry as rapidly as possible, in accordance with the strategy set by the Palace.
“The President’s directive is to increase production in almost all sectors of agriculture and all commodities, but of course there is special emphasis on rice,” Mr. Laurel said on Monday.
Mr. Laurel added that the Department of Agriculture is preparing measures to keep rice prices under control.
“It is possible to lower the price, but we have to have our silos, our buffer stock, and we have to change some laws,” he added, without elaborating.
He said modernization would make agriculture more profitable and attractive to the younger generations.
“Modernizing is not easy, so it might take a little time, but we are going to do it as fast as possible,” he said.
Due to high grain prices, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. ordered price controls on rice on Sept. 5, which capped regular-milled rice at P41 per kilogram and well-milled rice at P45. The controls were lifted on Oct. 5.
Mr. Laurel added that one of his major initiatives is to compile more accurate data on agricultural production.
“One of the major things I have to do from the start is to (revitalize), if possible, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics so we will have accurate data,” he said, noting that the bureau’s current output is “incomplete.”
He said more accurate and timely data will aid in making decisions on whether to rely on domestic output as against importing food.
“We really have to import when it is needed, but in order to bring the right balance, we have to have the right data to manage it properly,” he added.
Mr. Laurel added that he plans to promote the proliferation of aquaculture and mariculture.
“The (fisherfolk) and small coastal (communities) can make money, but we have to change some policies to promote that better,” he said.
He added that the growth in seaweed production could further boost the fisheries industry.
During the second quarter, seaweed was the top item by volume of all fisheries products, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. Output was 365,775 metric tons for the period, accounting for 33.9% of fisheries production. — Adrian H. Halili