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Dumaguete City, Philippines Friday, April 15, 2016
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Agriculture a
priority, Villar says

“Agriculture should always be a priority, we are an agricultural country, one third of the population are agricultural workers, and we can never be any other,” said Senator Cynthia Villar, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, who was guest speaker during the opening program of the 119 th Dairy Congress and Exposition at the Negros Oriental Convention Center in Dumaguete City until today.

Villar stressed the importance of tapping the untapped potential of the dairy industry in the country to achieve a collective goal of helping the economy and help address the problem of malnutrition among children.

At present, we produce very little of what we need, barely one percent, because we're depending on a big importation of milk from other countries, and so milk is not readily available in our tables for our children to drink because it cost higher, Villar said.

She is personally interested to find out how far the country in achieving the targets set and outlined in the Dairy Roadmap 2010-2016 or the medium-term dairy development plan by the National Dairy Authority, the main objective of which is to gain significant milk sufficiency level in the ready-to-drink milk market from 20 percent in 2010 to more than double (43 percent) by this year.

Villar pointed out that Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala made mentioned in last year's Dairy Congress that the industry is on track towards attaining the targets particularly in the expansion of NDA's  animal distribution program with more than 46,000 heads of dairy animals, and more than 100,000 families are already engaged in dairying with 19,000 farmers generating income from selling milk, milk products and dairy animals.

She, however, told reporters that the dairy industry in the country is not yet fully developed because we only produce a mere one percent of our demand for milk, which is very, very low.

Villar stressed that the country should keep on looking at programs that will help improve the dismal milk production in the Philippines. She said industry players can follow the lead of the Philippine Carabao Center and look for foreign grants that will fund the construction of modern facilities and acquisition of relevant equipment to hasten production efficiency. We should level up, especially now that regional economic cooperation under the ASEAN economic community has started last year already.

She said boosting milk production is a good start.

She suggested to dairy cooperatives all over the country to host milk feeding programs in schools in their communities. This will not only provide livelihood to farmers but will address malnutrition among school children in the countryside.

Villar told dairy farmers in the country not to think that they are only small because the potential for future growth and development is really high and the possibilities are endless. She said dairy industry players should continue enhancing their competitive advantage to be able to seize the opportunities that are coming their way and that the country recognizes their role in food sufficiency.

She asked them to convince their children to continue with their small farms because if discontinued, the country will have a problem of food sufficiency in the next and future generations. At present, statistics would show that our farmers are aging, at an average age of 57 years old and when their children will not continue developing their small farmers, time will come when we have no more staple on our tables.

Studies revealed that by 2050, we will have a problem of food sufficiency if small farmers are not developed today. “I'm sure I will not be around on that year, and maybe most of us here are dead, but it is our children and grand children who will suffer. That's why we're here to take upon ourselves to continue with our small farms for our children and our children's children so they will not starve in the future.

To convince them, we have to enable our children to earn a reasonable income in their small farms, by teaching them the proper technology, address concerns for mechanization and a business sense to make their farms earn. Their farms can be profitable by converting them into agricultural training centers or farm schools that is TESDA- accredited.

Present during the opening day included Juan Lozano, national chairman of the Dairy Confederation, Jeffrey Albanese, agricultural attaché, United States Department of Agriculture, Thanatip Upatising of the Royal Thai Embassy in Manila, and Undersecretary Dennis Guerrero  of the Department of Agriculture, among others.*JG



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