Modernize agriculture, fishery sectors in N. Luzon to fight poverty, says ex-DA chief

MANILA — The government can further develop and modernize the agriculture and fishery industry in northern Luzon and lift more people out of poverty, said former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar.

“The Duterte administration should diversify northern Luzon’s agriculture by sustainably producing more commodities and processed products for both local and export markets. This initiative would create more livelihood and employment opportunities, increasing the incomes of farm families, and lifting most of them from poverty,” he said.

Dar suggested three major imperatives that should be pursued, namely: shift from mono-cropping to diversification and multiple cropping; intensify production and mechanization in irrigated rice areas to reduce production costs and be competitive against Thailand and Vietnam; transform less productive upland and rainfed lowland areas into farms that will produce high-value vegetables, fruits, ornamentals, coffee, oil palm, rubber, cacao and hybrid coconuts.

He said farm diversification should be complemented with investments in infrastructure and transportation.

“Agriculture, rural infrastructure and markets are keys to unleash the potentials of northern Luzon, and the country, in general,” added Dar, who is also the founding president of InangLupa Movement, Inc., a volunteer agri-fishery socio-civic organization.

He said these include irrigation, post-harvest and agri-processing centers, storage and warehousing facilities, farm-to-market roads, modern highways, airports and seaports, and local and export wholesale market center.

Dar further said transportation and movement of farm products to local and export markets are getting better and faster, with the extension of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to Pangasinan via La Union through Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEx) and Clark International Airport augmenting the Laoag International Airport.

In Cagayan Valley, the Tuguegarao airport and Sta Ana Port could be enhanced into international airport and seaport, respectively, he added.

Moreover, he said the old train system from Manila to La Union should be revived and modernized, and that a new train system around Northern Luzon should be considered to connect major farm and fishery center with the major air and seaports and market centers.

Four northern Luzon regions — Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Cordilleras and Central Luzon— one-fifth of their population, mostly farm families, remain poor despite being the country’s leading food basket. Leslie Venzon/PNA/