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19 October 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the Millennium Challenge Corporation develops a second compact program with the Philippine Government, a forum organized to explore the current and future state of the agricultural sector in the Philippines was held on 11 October 2016 as a side event of the World Food Prize (WFP) celebration in Des Moines, Iowa.

The WFP 2016 celebration commemorates 30 years of its establishment by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and known to be the father of the "Green Revolution”.

Earlier this year, the Philippine Government completed its first 5-year compact, a $433-million program focused on road rehabilitation, community development, and revenue administration reform. The second compact, now under development, is proposed to focus on increasing the competitiveness of the agricultural sector.

Courtenay Engelke, Senior Director in MCC’s Finance, Investment and Trade group, facilitated the discussion among a panel of experts who discussed Philippine agriculture policy, programs being implemented, lessons learned, and plans and opportunities for investment in Philippine agriculture in and around the second compact. The panel also included a discussion about transport, value chain, and supply chain developments designed to integrate smallholders into larger domestic, regional, and global markets.

Dr. Josyline Javelosa, Agriculture Attaché at the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C.,  presented the current administration's 10-point economic agenda and priorities in agriculture. She said that the panel of non-government representatives working on agro-projects in the Philippines, most of which are under the US Department of Agriculture's Food for Progress Program, provided valuable insights into how to further enhance agricultural competitiveness in the country, while lauding current initiatives to focus on agriculture-based rural development as a means to reduce poverty, generate lucrative livelihoods and achieve lasting peace.

Mr. Evan Freund, Director and Country Team Leader for the Philippines of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, discussed MCC's mission. He confirmed that the current thrusts of the Philippine Government to focus on policies and programs projects that will spur rural development responds to the growth constraints identified by a team of experts developing the second MCC compact program for the Philippines. He also emphasized the critical role that improvements in transport logistics could make in successfully linking farmers with growing markets in the 7,100-island nation.

Mr. Dan Gudahl, Chief of Party of the Philippines Cold Chain Project of Winrock International talked about their project in the CARAGA region, a promising and peaceful area with so much agribusiness potential. Through its cold chain project for meats and seafood, Mr. Gudahl relates how critical post harvest infrastructure can add value to farmers' perishable produce. He also highlighted the role that partnerships with the private sector can do in creating impact such as the one they have with Pilmico Foods Corporation, a food subsidiary of Aboitiz Equity Ventures. Pilmico has provided counterpart funding for the Philippine Cold Chain Project to help farmers in the improvement of genetic materials through their swine and poultry loan repopulation program for the Caraga region, and also in meat processing, cold storage and market development.

The Winrock International representative also highlighted its partnership with the local chamber of commerce and industry on the upcoming CARAGA Agricultural Trade and Marketing Exposition (CARAT Expo 2016) slated for 9-13 November 2016 to bolster a signature brand for the region – the “CARAGA Lobster”.  This is in line with its thrust to provide more focused marketing and trading initiatives to help increase productivity and create trade opportunities for small producers in CARAGA. The region envisions of becoming the fishery, agri-forestry, mineral and eco-tourism center of the country.

Mr. David Alt, US Government Donor Engagement Director at Catholic Relief Services, talked about its agro-enterprise and clustering development approach whereby clustering small farm holders and partnering them with strong private corporations like Jollibee Foods Corporation can provide a sustainable path to successful agro-based ventures. Mr. Alt also emphasized lessons learned through their project in the Philippines that market-driven, rather than supply-driven, production has higher likelihood of success.

Mr. Paul Guenette, Executive Vice President for Communications and Outreach of ACDI/VOCA talked about their value chain  and market systems approaches being employed under their MINPACT project that works toward increasing the incomes of smallholder cocoa, coconut, and coffee farming families in southern and western Mindanao. The project strengthens farmers’ capacity and that of other value chain actors, emphasizing how quality of farm produce can change the agribusiness dynamics.

Ms. Lauren Ruth, Director of Programs, Land O Lakes, highlighted the role of cooperatives and farmers associations in being the nexus of inputs that can catapult farmers towards economic strength. She relates how their dairy projects in Mindanao in partnership with the Philippine Government have been implemented to address the high incidence of malnutrition in Mindanao. She also talked about the importance of sustainable practices from "Grass to Glass" including attention needed on the quality of feeds, food safety education and animal genetics in dairy development.

Dr. Javelosa and MCC representatives Mr. Freund and Ms. Engleke said that the forum was part of the outreach efforts to partners in the private and development sectors, including the Filipino diaspora in the United States, as MCC and the Philippine Government develop a second compact. ###