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The Philippines and Israel boost agri-tech partnership

Image credits: mb.com.ph

Food security is a critical concern as the population of most countries expand and natural resources become finite. Smart solutions and innovation for more efficient farming, hardier crops, alternative sources of nutrition, and safer food packaging and storage are essential.

In light of this, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Israeli Ambassador to the Philippines recently met to discuss new initiatives that will strengthen the cooperation between Philippine and Israeli companies in the areas of innovation and Agri-technology.  Israel is one of the leading countries in the world in innovation and new technology and the Philippines can learn from them especially in developing the country’s agriculture sector.

PCCI toured Israeli’s Ambassador in the PCCI Innovation Centre, which is envisioned to provide the Filipino youth and tech start-ups the opportunity to learn in-demand skills such as AI, Robotics, Cloud Technology, Internet of Things, and Blockchain, among others.

In perspective, Israel’s agriculture is the success story of a long, hard struggle against adverse land and climate conditions. Israel has a long and proud history of innovation, from biblical times to the modern-day. Dubbed the ‘start-up nation,’ this technological powerhouse boasts more science-related start-ups per capita than any other nation on Earth. Despite housing a mere 9 million inhabitants, its venture capital funding is second only to the United States.

The country’s agricultural success is attributed to the close cooperation between farmers, Agri industry, and technological research (R&D is about 17% of Israel’s budget allocation for agriculture).

With this partnership, the Philippines look to boost the same technological achievements that Israel has achieved. This may include computer-controlled drip irrigation, computerised early-warning systems for leaks, thermal imaging for crop water stress detection, biological pest control and new varieties of fruit and vegetables. Water shortage is alleviated through extensive water-reuse (86%) and desalination plants.

Moreover, according to a report released by the World Bank, transforming Philippine agriculture into a dynamic, high-growth sector is essential for the country to speed up recovery, poverty reduction and inclusive growth. The country’s farming and food systems are even more important during the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure strong food value chains, affordable and nutritious food, and a vibrant rural economy.

Modernising the country’s agricultural sector is a very important agenda for the Philippines. Except for a few small natural resource-rich countries, no country has successfully transitioned from middle- to high-income status without having achieved an effective transformation of their agri-food systems. Transforming agriculture and food systems is always challenging. But the country’s new vision for agriculture, its current thrust for diversification and use of modern technologies, and its effective management of food supply during this pandemic indicate that the country is well-equipped to overcome the challenge, says the report.

World Bank’s support to the Philippines includes long-running programmes aiming to raise agricultural productivity and reduce poverty in rural communities. A current example of this is the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) which aims to help increase rural incomes and enhance farm and fishery productivity.

At the same time, lawmakers in the country are pushing for a bigger allocation of resources for the agriculture sector in the national Budget 2021. In Budget hearings by Congress, lawmakers proposed increases in the funding for the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

They cited the need to finance key programmes of the DA and DAR to enable both agencies to aid farmers and businesses in the sector to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. They proposed an increase of PHP2 billion in the PHP8.8-billion budget of DAR for the establishment of “mega-farms” that would energise Philippine agriculture and achieve food security during the expected prolonged pandemic. They also sought an increase in the PHP3-billion budget for the capital outlay of DAR.

Accordingly, the Agricultural Training Institute of the Department of Agriculture (ATI-DA) is producing programmes offering free skills training for farmers in line with its vision to modernise Philippine agriculture.

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