Market integration of smallholder farmers discussed in Philippine-France Agriculture Forum

By Rosario B. Bantayan, Camille Joy V. Enalbes, and Maria Katrina R. Punto FANSSEA News

MAKATI, Philippines - A forum jointly organized by the Philippines and France highlighted several factors that affect the integration of smallholder farmers, such as markets, standards, organization, policies, and investments. Recognizing the crucial role of smallholder farmers in sustainable food production to achieve food security and nutrition, the Department of Agriculture, together with the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Department of Science and Technology – Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (DOST-PCARRD) and the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), partnered with the French Embassy in the Philippines in organizing the Philippine-French Forum on Agriculture held on 26 September 2017 at New World Hotel, Manila, Philippines. The Forum aimed to give science- and evidenced-based policy directions and recommendations on specific agricultural issues such as agrobiodiversity, livestock, animal health, innovative technologies, sustainable agricultural practices, and market integration of smallholder farmers amidst the challenges posed by climate change. The Forum also served as a venue for scientists, policy makers, and businessmen to discuss and identify possible areas of collaboration between the Philippines and France in research and development as well as promote linkages with French experts in agriculture and agri-food business sector. 

Themed "How the agricultural sector addresses the challenges of food security and farmers' well-being amidst climate change," the Forum featured four parallel sessions: Agrobiodiversity and Soil Management; Livestock and Animal Health; Market Integration and Smallholder Farmers; and Technology and Modernization of Agricultural Practices.

In particular, SEARCA facilitated Session 3 on "Market Integration of Smallholder Farmers." This session asserts that to tap the full potential of smallholder farmers to increase their productivity and contribute to the economy, the government should: (1) help improve their access to markets, (2) provide assistance in improving their farming standards related to food safety and quality which can pose opportunities in terms of price premium that come along with standards, (3) assist smallholder farmers to be more systematic and professionally organized to improve their bargaining power and facilitate access to credit and other government services, (4) create an enabling policy environment and incentives, and (5) finance priority investments in rural infrastructure and enterprise development. SEARCA, a regional center for agriculture hosted by the Philippine government, convened this session along its focus on inclusiveness toward uplifting the plight of smallholder farmers. SEARCA has a standing memorandum of understanding through which French expertise and resources may be brought to bear on agricultural and rural development concerns in the Philippines.

Dr. Roehlano M. Briones, Research Fellow, Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) served as SEARCA Facilitator. Ms. Amparo C. Ampil, Chief of Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Policy Division, Department of Agriculture and Mr. Sébastien Bouvatier, Agricultural Counsellor for ASEAN countries, French Embassy in Singapore, provided the context and challenges confronting smallholder farmers. This session is in line with SEARCA's thrust on inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development (ISARD) under its Tenth Five-Year Plan that envisions to link small-scale farmers with commercial food systems thereby enhancing their productivity and economic well-being.

Session 3 panelists/discussants included the following: Dr. Mercedita A. Sombilla, Assistant Secretary and concurrent Director, Natural Resources and Environment Staff (ANRES), National Economic Development Authority (NEDA); Ms. Leny G. Pecson, Alternate Component Head of the Enterprise Development Component under the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP I-REAP); Mr. Matty Demont, Senior Scientist, Market and Value Chain Research, IRRI; Mr. Florian de Saint Vincent, International Projects Director, SEMMARIS Rungis International Market; and Mr. Raul Socrates C. Banzuela, Executive Director, Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA).

The Forum concluded with statements from the Secretary of Agriculture Hon. Emmanuel Piñol and Chargé d'Affaires of the Embassy of France in the Philippines, Mr. Laurent Legodec. They emphasized on the need to strengthen partnership of the two countries in improving the state of agriculture in the Philippines.

The Forum was an initiative of the French Embassy in the Philippines and the Department of Agriculture in celebration of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between France and the Philippines. SEARCA served as Rapporteur with Ms. Camille Joy V. Enalbes, Program Specialist, Graduate Education and Institutional Development Department covering Parallel Session 1 while Ms. Rosario B. Bantayan, Program Specialist, Knowledge Management Department and Ms. Maria Katrina R. Punto, Program Associate, Research and Development Department handling Parallel Session 3.