Last week, MECO and TECO signed a memorandum of understanding that would jumpstart a program for young Filipino farmers to learn more about farm management and agricultural technologies through an internship program where they study and work at the same time.
We thank Secretary William Dar and the Department of Agriculture for supporting this initiative under Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy. In the virtual meeting where topics on agricultural cooperation were discussed, including business-to-business inter-action, DA Usec Rodolfo Vicerra led the Philippine panel. The presentation’s of Filipino businessmen, particularly Mr. Toto Barcelona on Taiwan-Philippine farming cooperation assisted by MECO and TECO, and a novel urban vegetable farming using vertical agri-technology by Mr. Simon Villalon were the highlights of the B2B afternoon session.
In my opening statement during the conference at the Council of Agriculture office in Taipei, I noted that the “disruption that COVID-19 brought has distracted us from equally urgent tasks, among these, food sufficiency and food security.”
In truth, food will be the next problem, as agricultural productivity all over the world has likewise been disrupted by the over-arching concern over the pandemic. Thus, food inflation would be a problem in many parts of the world next year.
In the Philippines, food prices have already spiked after we had been visited by several destructive typhoons one after the other. The African Swine Fever has also had deleterious effects of on our hog-raising industry. I keep my fingers crossed on the price of rice and meat next year as well.
All over the world, the agricultural sector is faced with several problems, and I enumerated some – the negative impact of climate change, the increasing demand for food to feed growing populations while in many countries farm productivity has remained stagnant, the lack of water to irrigate farms, and the lack of interest among young people to engage themselves in farm and fishery work.
The Taiwanese have taken good care of their agricultural sector, optimizing the use of scarce land resources by harnessing modern technology and continued research and innovation. It is this modernizing ethic that we hope young Filipinos can imbibe when they come to Taiwan for farm internship.
With the program that will be started by the MECO-TECO signed MOU, we hope that young Filipinos will discover not only that farming and fishing are profitable, but that they could also be challenging, exciting and “sexy.”