Agri chief urges attaches to increase farm exports

AGRICULTURE Secretary Proceso J. Alcala has urged the country’s agricultural attaches to find ways to increase exports of Philippine farm and fishery products, and improve the country’s balance of trade.

“Help conclude trade transactions. Understand our products and find ways to break barriers for the benefit our farmers, fishers and agri-fishery stakeholders,” said Secretary Alcala, during his recent meeting with the Department of Agriculture’s foreign agriculture service corps (FASC).

“In one of my meetings with the President, he pointed out that we have unfavorable balance of trade in agriculture with so many countries. I acknowledged that the DA has not given enough attention and effort on this. This is one of your immediate tasks – to look into the existing trade relations, and find ways to improve our balance of trade in agriculture,” the DA chief noted.

Currently, the DA has 12 agriculture attaches deployed in eight countries, namely: Washington, USA; Beijing, China; Dubai, UAE; Brussels, Belgium; Bangkok, Thailand; Rome, Italy; Tokyo, Japan; and Geneva, Switzerland.

He also urged them to go beyond the initial trial exports by helping the private sector sustain exporting non-traditional products like fancy and aromatic rice, and meat products, as the Philippines remains free from the foot and mouth disease (FMD) and avian flu. “Assist them by finding out the requirements and procedures in target markets,” he noted.

Further, he asked them to help promote Philippine organic agriculture products by linking Filipino producers and processors with prospective exporters, and helping them comply with requirements in target markets.

In 2011, the country’s total agricultural imports reached $7.775 billion versus $5.388-billion worth of agricultural exports, for a trade balance of $2.387 billion, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO).

Among its five major trading partners, however, the Philippines enjoys a positive balance of agricultural trade with Japan and the European Union (EU) at $515 million and $460 million, respectively, NSO figures show. The country’s other major trading partners are the USA, ASEAN and Australia.

Agricultural exports to Japan in 2011 totaled $652 million, led by banana ($250M), coconut oil ($77M), pineapple ($51M), sugar ($44M) and tuna ($28M). The Philippines imported $136-million worth of Japanese agricultural products in 2011, led by fertilizers ($52M).

The Philippines exported to Europe various agricultural products worth $1.066 billion, led by coconut oil ($600M), tuna ($91M), seaweeds and carageenan ($45M), dessicated coconut ($42M), and pineapple products ($11M). On the other hand, the country imported $606-million worth of European agricultural products, led by milk and milk products ($44M).

Finally, the DA chief asked the agricultural attaches to submit through Undersecretary Serrano their respective 2013 plans and targets, and provide him updates and breakthroughs in trade negotiations.

The agricultural attaches came over for their biennial meeting with the DA Secretary and briefing with other DA family agencies and officials, from January 14 to 22, 2013. They also visited several DA regional offices and projects in Davao, Iloilo and Aklan.

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