By Adrian H. Halili, Reporter

AGRICULTURAL EXPORT growth will continue to be constrained by limited output and funding to develop the high-value crop sector, farmers said.

“Our problem with exports goes back to our problems in producing high-quality and competitively priced products on a consistent and sustainable basis, and in a way that is profitable for our farmers and market players,” Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said in a Viber message.

Former Agriculture Undersecretary Fermin D. Adriano blamed the lack of funds allocated for high-value crops, as against the attention paid to rice production.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has set aside about P31 billion in 2024 to improve rice production.

“For as long as research and development and extension services receive a pittance, and the DA does not properly play its role of training our agri-exporters on (sanitary and phytosanitary) standards of the various rich importing countries, export growth potential will be constrained,” Mr. Adriano said in a Viber message.

The DA has announced the preparation of a Philippine Agricultural Export Development Plan to increase exports of agriculture and fisheries products.

“Despite all the supposed concessions we gained from trade negotiations, our agricultural trade deficit has continued to increase, especially since our competitors are racing far ahead of us,” Mr. Montemayor added.

Agricultural exports declined 13.3% to $1.61 billion during the third quarter, accounting for 8.2% of total exports, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The leading exports were edible fruit and nuts as well as peel of citrus fruit and melons, valued at $492.09 million, or 30.5% of the total.

He said that the DA needs to identify products to focus on for export while setting up a support system covering the process from production to domestic and international markets.

Malaking trabaho (It’s a big job) but there are many success stories, which we just need to promote and expand,” Mr. Montemayor added.

Meanwhile, Roy S. Kempis, a retired Pampanga State Agricultural University professor, said that agriculture products like mango, avocado, and durian are on demand in global markets but can benefit from further support.

“Philippine mango is preferred for its sweetness, texture and appropriate amount of fiber both in the export and domestic markets,” Mr. Kempis said in a Viber message, citing the potential for expanding the crop.

He added that the government could increase farmland dedicated to avocado and durian.

Mr. Kempis said technical and management training is needed by producers and exporters.

He said increasing the planting area, improving pest management and irrigation systems, and building community processing areas, will support the growth of such exportable crops, as will more access to credit.

“Exporting and financial literacy are two other areas that agriculture and food producers and exporters could be trained in,” he added.