November 11, 2020
THE European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) is urging the government to ramp up the Build Build Build program by increasing investments in agri-fishery infrastructure in the proposed stimulus package in order to boost agricultural supply chain development in the country.
During the 22nd Davao Agri Trade Expo’s first of its webinar series titled “Agricultural Logistics Systems Under New Normal” held on Tuesday, Antonio Peralta, chairman of the ECCP Southern Mindanao Business Council, said that Philippine agricultural supply chain development can be realized by investing largely in infrastructure and creating discussions on production and operational concerns. This entails a “modernized” and “improved” transparency in regulatory processes as well as a “constructive” regular dialogue between public and private stakeholders, among others, Peralta said.
As agriculture remains to be a main source of livelihood and food for marginalized communities, Peralta stressed that “under the new normal, we really need to focus on the way we adjust to the kind of business we really are in… as this (referring to coronavirus disease 2019 or Covid-19 pandemic) was unanticipated even before” and “of course we cannot exclude rural farming communities because they have a very big role in the agri value chain”.
“There can be no inclusive growth unless the rural farming communities are brought in the growth and development process,” he added.
Peralta lamented that the country’s farm sector is currently facing the similar problems it has been suffering from for the last 30 years — lack of postharvest facilities, credit, and poor farm-to-market (FMR) roads — which, if only been provided to intended beneficiaries, will tremendously increase national food production as well as improve agricultural trade both in the local and global scene.
According to him, the country’s import flow revolves around China being its major supplier accounting to 38 percent of the total while Japan, Lithuania, Singapore, Thailand and the United States are at about 12.5 percent apiece.
On the other hand, Philippine exports’ major international clients are the US (25 percent), Japan (19 percent) and Europe (14 percent). Some of these export-quality products include banana, coconut, palm oil, live and preserved fish, animal or vegetable oil, charcoal, fruits and seaweeds.
Role of domestic shipping
Peralta mentioned that some of the issues facing the domestic shipping industry are lack of “meaningful” competition, weak incentives to modernize, as high shipping cost and ineffective services. “Malaysia and Brunei have lower shipping logistics cost than Mindanao,” he said, adding that the country’s total logistics cost is accounted largely by that of Mindanao at 30.32 percent while Luzon and Visayas at 17.48 percent and 25.08 percent, respectively.
He also stressed that shipping operations are generally regarded as unsafe with at least 170 maritime disasters recorded over the past 26 years.
“On the supply side, we support reviewing the high shipping costs that serve as a barrier for farmers and traders to market their products in urban and high-consumption areas,” said Peralta.
“Specifically, we propose revisiting the Republic Act 10668 or the Cabotage Law, providing justifications on the charges imposed by shipping lines, observing the globally recognized standards of International Commercial Terms, and clarifying the lead government agency responsible for matters shipping rates,” he added.
In all, Peralta said ECCP is supporting the building of farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems, storage infrastructure and facilities, and postharvest facilities, among others. “Moreover, farming technologies and systems such as agri- and aqua-energy farms and renewable energy-powered irrigation systems could be developed to help promote sustainability and clean energy,” he added.
By Eireene Jairee Gomez
Source: The Manila Times