DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 03 September) – Regional economies in Mindanao need to focus on strengthening their agriculture sector as the “tiny spark” during these dark times after it managed to grow by 0.1 percent in the first semester of this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mindanao Development Authority Assistant Secretary Romeo Montenegro said.
During a virtual “Wednesdays at Habi at Kape,” Montenegro highlighted the sector’s importance in restarting the island’s economy under a “new normal”.
He said the sector managed to sustain its promising performance compared to industries and services sectors that posted -6.9 percent and -7.9 percent, respectively, in the same period.
Mindanao comprises the Davao Region, Caraga Region, Northern Mindanao, Soccsksargen, Zamboanga Peninsula and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“It’s very small perhaps, minimal perhaps yet we can consider that as a tiny spark in the light of this otherwise dark economic reality that we have faced because of the pandemic,” Montenegro said.
He said Mindanao’s agriculture remained resilient “these last several months of a precarious period of the pandemic,” which adversely impacted on the economy.
But he emphasized that developing agriculture must go side-by-side with infrastructure development to bring its growth up a notch higher.
“And certainly because of this, we are emboldened to do more what is logical, what is strategic and most viable in Mindanao, and that is to strengthen and harness the strength of agriculture, our inherent strength and the only sector that delivered us resilience in this pandemic period,” he added.
He said Mindanao’s agriculture accounted for 40 percent of the country’s overall food output and 30 percent of the national food trade.
The official said food production was not halted during lockdowns implemented at the onset of the COVID-19 outbreak, providing income opportunities for farmers in the hinterlands.
But he encouraged the farmers to venture into value-adding, so that their final outputs could fetch higher prices in the market.
“This time around we have to look at a different mindset in terms of our way forward in Mindanao and definitely, we have to go back to where we’ve been – strong for several decades and that is agriculture and therefore moving forward we continue to leverage our strength in the agriculture,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)