Evidence-based policies to boost agricultural productivity

The Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) has underscored the need for evidence-based policies to boost agricultural productivity and help reduce the ranks of the poor.
A new PIDS study showed that with tepid output growth over the years, the agricultural sector now accounts for just above a tenth of gross domestic product.
About 32 percent of the ranks of the employed work in agriculture, forestry and hunting, and fishing.
The study noted that the poor can mostly be found in the rural areas working in these low-skilled, low-productivity, and low-income jobs.
PIDS has done extensive work in agricultural policy research, in support of the government’s goal of making growth more inclusive.
A recent paper by PIDS Senior Research Fellow Roehlano Briones argues that the agricultural and rural economy should be at the “forefront, rather than periphery, of the country’s strategy for quality employment generation.”
This can be achieved, he said, by enabling a structural transformation in agriculture, by shifting to high-value crops, which are more profitable than traditional crops such as rice and corn.
Agricultural diversification can increase agricultural productivity and raise farm incomes, enabling farm households to invest in health and education.
However, this transformation requires rapid technological change and improved rural infrastructure, which clearly call for increased investments in infrastructure as well as in agricultural research and development (R&D), an area where the Philippines lags behind its neighbors, the study said.
“But it is not enough to just hike state expenditures in agriculture, which have in fact grown in recent years. Faulty design and execution of programs are partly to blame for the disappointing performance of the agricultural sector,” the study noted.
PIDS has recommended to veer away from input subsidies and similar production support and focus on public goods with evidence of impact, such as roads, airports, electrification, regulatory services, and R&D for technological change and agricultural modernization