TACLOBAN CITY- Eastern Visayas should strengthen and rebuild its agriculture sector to lift millions out of poverty, an official of a regional political party here said.

“We want to move the region out of poverty. We believe that someday, the region can rise from the depths of poverty and play a larger role in the country’s development. And the best shot that we have is our agriculture,” said Tingog Sinirangan first nominee Jude Acidre.

Acidre’s statement came after the already “sorry state” of agriculture in Eastern Visayas was “aggravated” by the onslaught of supertyphoon Yolanda in November 2013.

“In January 2014, two months after the typhoon, the Department of Agriculture estimated PHP31 billion damage on farming sector. The report showed that the coconut industry in region incurred production losses valued at PHP17.8 billion, sustaining the greatest damage. The typhoon damaged 441,517 hectares of coconut,” recalled Acidre.

“The rice subsector incurred production losses of PHP3.23 billion, while 106,414 hectares of rice fields were destroyed. The banana industry also sustained significant production losses valued at PHP1.49 billion, destroying 14,775 hectares of banana. Damage to agriculture facilities and infrastructure was valued at PHP4.06 billion.

As a result, an estimated 203,870 farming and fishing families were affected by the typhoon, aggravating poverty in the region,” he added.

Acidre however maintained that the region can attain “inclusive growth” if it will push for pro-agriculture reforms.

“We have good land that is favorable to agriculture. In the past, our coconut, abaca and other produce have contributed toward raising the national economic supply. It only makes sense that we push for rebuilding our agriculture,” he said.

Acidre said that government should heed to their call on “revisiting and revising policies that affect the agriculture industry.”

“Some of the ways identified to rebuild agriculture are encouraging investments in agriculture, investing in irrigation system projects and programs that increase the resilience of our farms and plantations to climate risks and disasters, as well as pests and diseases,” said Acidre.

“We will push for reforms that are pro-agriculture. We want to protect and prioritize our producers, the farmers. If our farmers go hungry, the whole country will eventually go hungry,” he added.

Acidre noted that Eastern Visayas continues to lag behind other regions in the country.

“After typhoon Yolanda, the region reached an all-time high 54.9 percent poverty incidence, making it the poorest region in the country in 2015, replacing the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao,” he said. PNA

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