Creation of sustainable food systems eyed at Davao agri expo

The government, in partnership with the private sector and industry stakeholders, aims to establish sustainable food systems in Mindanao as one of its priorities to further develop the region’s export-oriented agricultural productivity and help the sector become globally competitive.

During the launch of the 22nd Davao Agri Trade Expo on Friday, John Carlo Tria, president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., told attendees that the annual event was his group’s largest agriculture industry expo and the longest-running in the southern Philippines.

He formally announced the opening of the expo with the theme “Rebooting the Country’s Agriculture Towards the New Normal.” The event will run a series of online forums beginning November 10.

In his keynote speech, Agriculture Secretary William Dar expressed support for the Davao City government as the Department of Agriculture aims to continue empowering the country’s food security frontliners, particularly farmers, fishermen and agribusiness entrepreneurs.

He stressed that Mindanao remains the country’s food basket, being the champions of food exports, such as coconut and banana.

“Over the long term, we aim to create a competitive and sustainable food systems. We’d like to bank on our various partnerships with the private sector and encourage them to do their share in keeping resilience in our agri-fishery sector,” Dar said.

“We believe that our partnerships have been instrumental in keeping the country food-secured,” he added.

This was echoed by Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, who said the expo would not only focus on improving Davao’s agricultural and agribusiness capacities, but also those of Mindanao.

“The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) believes [that] agribusiness helps to recover the agriculture industry [as] it makes export-oriented processing a top priority while we are pushing for inclusive growth in the sector,” Lopez said.

“Our vision is to transform the sector from traditional farming into [a] globally competitive industry,” he added, noting that the expo had been a “frontrunner” in creative agricultural innovations, like creating value-adding products in the region, such as coffee, cacao, coconut, fruits and nuts.

Alessandro Marini, country director of International Fund For Agricultural Development, underscored the “vast potential” of the country’s agribusiness sector. But to sustain its growth, he said, “there is a need to ensure that the growth in rural areas should be inclusive as much as possible.”

This, he added, can be done by creating inclusive agriculture value chain and competitive markets, as well as strengthening partnerships among food producers, processors, traders and even investors.

The Davao Agri Trade Expo is “an important occasion and exchange between the private sector and the government toward a fruitful agricultural economy,” Marini said.

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DA: Meat quarantine facility efforts on track

By Eireene Jairee Gomez

Initiatives on putting up meat quarantine facilities in key entry points in the country are “on track,” the Department of Agriculture (DA), refuting allegations that it failed to set up enough meat inspection facilities.

“The construction of the country’s first border inspection facility is still on track, but certain barriers [are] yet to be addressed following government requirements and procedures,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement late Friday.

“While waiting for the facility, the department adopts a stringent two-stage inspection process upon entry of imported agricultural commodities into the country. This is a science-based regulatory procedure that we strictly follow both for local and international shipment of agricultural products,” he added.

The statement comes after farmers’ group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) accused it of not stopping meat imports that reportedly affected local meat prices.

An attached agency of the DA, the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), said its quarantine officers conduct initial ocular inspections at any port of entry, after which a “more rigorous” examination is conducted at cold storage facilities accredited by the National Meat Inspection Service.

This ensures the safety of agricultural commodities entering the country, it added.

Like Dar, BAI Director Ronnie Domingo also cited legal and logistcal barriers facing the planned inspection facility — to be built at the Port of Manila — which he said needed to be hurdled.

“Building a government structure in a privately operated congested port area is not an overnight task to accomplish. The identification of a 2,000-square meter area for the ACEA (agriculture commodity examination area) will be settled soonest,” he added.

The DA is also busy hiring project members to finalize the detailed architectural and engineering designs required by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), so that allotted funds for the ACEA would be released.

“Although the concept designs have already been done, the DBM needs the detailed designs to effect fund release,” Domingo said.

Once built, the facility would be a one-stop shop for regulatory inspections of imported agricultural product, and a common facility for the BAI, as well as the Bureau of Plant Industry and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, to prevent animal, fish and plant diseases from entering the country.

The proposal to build the facility was approved in principle during a December 2019 Cabinet meeting. It has a budget of P521.57 million.

Meanwhile, the BAI has started laying the groundwork for the establishment of other ACEA facilities at the international ports of Subic, Batangas, Cebu and Davao.

To address smuggled pork, the Bureau of Customs and several other agencies have signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen border control and protection. Countries intending to export agricultural products to the Philippines must submit to a strict accreditation procedure to ensure its compliance with national standards and regulations.

The DA would impose an import ban on any country with reported pest outbreaks.

“The DA assures the public of its support to the implementation of the Food Safety Act of 2013, including the provisions for the ‘quarantine first policy’ to ensure that agricultural products in the country are safe, hygienic and fit for consumption of every Filipino family,” Dar said.

Formally known as Republic Act 10611, the Food Safety Act aims to strengthen the food safety regulatory system in the country to protect consumer health and facilitate market access of local foods and food products, among others.

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