Alcala wants farming to become 'sexy' again to younger Filipinos

LEGAZPI CITY, Philippines – To sustain the Philippines' food security in the coming decades, the Department of Agriculture (DA) wants to attract younger Filipinos and encourage them to take up agriculture and farming courses.

“We want to make farming sexy again to younger Filipinos just like Farmville in your Facebook – colorful, sexy and rewarding,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said, referring to the popular farming simulation social network game.

The DA chief said that in the past 5 years, the average age of a Filipino farmer is 57 years. But a recent study showed that the average age bracket now ranges from 44 years old to 43 years old and even younger, following the introduction of new technological tools and farm mechanization.

“We’re encouraging the youth to take up agriculture courses because farming nowadays is not as hard as before, with the help of technology and farm mechanization equipment,” Alcala said. 

He added that the government's provision of modern farm implements resulted in high rice production over the past 5 years, based on a study of the United States Department of Agriculture. Alcala, however, admitted that the DA failed to achieve its target of 100% rice sufficiency in 2013. 

From 81% rice sufficiency in 2010, the Aquino government was able to improve rice production by 97%, or an increase of 18 million metric tons, according to Alcala. (READ: The future of food security)

Modernization needed

The DA chief also said that the Philippine agriculture industry needs to modernize starting 2016 to keep up with the liberalization of agriculture because of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) integration.

The regional integration aims to transform the region into a single market in Asia, where goods, services, investment, skilled labor, and capital move freely in the global market.

“We need to be competitive beginning 2016 to 2017, or else the Philippines will be left behind. That’s why we need to implement modern, mechanized farm technology to adapt and to be competitive in the market with the help of Filipino farmers, specifically the younger generation,” Alcala said.

He also expressed confidence that Filipino farmers "can be at par with the best farmers of the world" using new farming technology.

The DA chief visited the provinces of Sorsogon and Albay, where he led the distribution of P45 million worth of farm implements and high value crop seeds, among others, along with Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal and Albay Governor Joey Salceda.

The agriculture department has chosen Bicol region as a pilot area for crops that could withstand the impact of climate change.

Alcala noted that Albay is the sole province in the country that has kept up 100% rice stability, despite being battered by natural disasters every year.

Salceda said the introduction of high value seeds and climate resistant variety of palay has allowed annual rice production per hectare to double.

Alcala also said that the Philippines, which achieved 97% rice self-sufficiency last year, is now Asia's fastest rice producer after registering a 4.04% average change improvement in milled rice production from 2010 to 2015. – Rappler.com