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Passage of JPEPA will open new markets for RP agri-business sector, says PGMA

Manila (10 October) -- The Senate ratification Wednesday night of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will open up new markets for the Philippine agribusiness sector, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said.

In her speech keynoting the opening ceremonies of Agrilink, Foodlink, Aqualink 2008 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City yesterday, the President said that sustaining agricultural growth has been a top priority of her administration.

Hailing the passage of JPEPA, the President said the country's goal of opening new markets for its agri-business products will be a lot easier to achieve with the approval of the agreement with Japan.

Four years ago, the Arroyo administration launched an ambitious program to further accelerate agri-business development through a pump-priming policy designed "to develop one million hectares of agribusiness lands and water to make them productive and to transport their products to the markets efficiently."

This development plan also included the strengthening of "niche markets" such as "primary products, call center services, niche tourism and niche agribusiness."

"Sustaining agricultural growth through niche markets is indeed the way to go in a globally competitive world," the President said.

"We earn the foreign exchange to buy the rice by exporting our own niche commodities like primary products, call center services, niche tourism and niche agribusiness," she added.

The President pointed out, however, that it is still "desirable to be self-sufficient in rice while still increasing our production of other plants, fruits, fish and livestock for the markets."

The Philippines has what it takes to carve out a niche for itself in the agribusiness sector with its diverse product base, she said.

She cited a long list of "non-mainstream products" such as mangosteen and papaya pastes, youghurt, civet coffee, goat's milk soaps, the golden "dory" fish, black tiger prawns, low fat salad dressing, palm sugar, indigenous plants and unconventional cut flowers which "will appeal to different segments of local and foreign markets."

"I am also pleased to hear about the use of nutritious indigenous vegetables like malunggay, which we are using extensively for our school feeding program, alugbati, saluyot, caturay and pako or fern," the President said.

"These are not only promising niche crops that translate into more income for the planters, they are also excellent sources of the vitamins and minerals we all need," she explained.

For the fisheries sector, the President mentioned the development of mariculture or that specialized branch of aquaculture involving the cultivation of marine organisms for food and other products in the open ocean, an enclosed section of the ocean, or in tanks, ponds or raceways which are filled with seawater, which can earn extra income for Filipino fishermen.

"Growing fish in the seas has proven to be one of the best methods to increase fish production and meet demands without significantly reducing the volume of fish outside the cages," the President said, adding that because of its profitability, "We now have 34 mariculture farms throughout the country."

She said that this "diversification" of the country's agricultural, food, and aquacultural products has made the Philippines a prime exporter to countries other than the United States to include China, Japan and Europe.

"So that the US is no longer our top export market, that now is China. And now Japan will open up with the JPEPA ratified. We also look at the European market," the President said. (PIA-MMIO) [top]

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