Action for Economic Reforms (AER), in its fourth policy note entitled “Rice Industry’s March Towards Agriculture 4.0” lauded the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) effort in promoting data- driven development in the agriculture sector.

“We recognize the initiatives of the DA together with Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in putting up different information systems and digital applications to generate rice information in the most scientific way. Their efforts in bringing our farmers towards the digital era are commendable. Through the launch of different mobile applications, assistance to farmers is accessible at their fingertips while information systems such as the Farmer Interventions Monitoring System (FIMS) is important in ensuring efficient distribution of DA’s various programs,” said Jessica Reyes-Cantos, AER President.

However, AER also noted areas for improvement and things that need work in how the DA and PhilRice utilize and promote these technologies.

AER said that although the DA and PhilRice deploy different information systems and mobile applications to generate timely and accurate rice information in the country, it is important that these are accessible to and being used by farmers.

“One critical ingredient in the program’s success is the level of acceptance, adaptation and utilization of farmers in using these technologies. How many of these apps can be used offline? Do they run exclusively on android phones? How many rice farmers have android phones? There is a need for the DA and PhilRice to maximize their existing platforms to promote these information systems and mobile applications and ensure that these are being used by farmers. Some of the apps are in English. It would be good to have them in Filipino, better still, if they are in local dialects,” said Cantos.

The group likewise noted issues in the Philippine Rice Information System which does not include data on cost of production which is crucial in evaluating the impact of Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program (RCEP) under the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) on the farmers’ income and welfare. RTL is heading towards its third year of implementation where it mandates a third party involvement in evaluating the effectiveness of RCEP.

Finally, they called for the immediate implementation of the Rice Fund Impact Monitoring System as mandated by the law’s IRR Rule 13.13 which should have been put in place after a year of the issuance of the IRR.