The term “modernization” may sound intimidating to most smallholder farmers, as it could connote getting rid of the carabao in favor of farm machines that they may not be ready to operate and maintain.

But in a modernized farming environment, the carabao is no longer used as a beast of burden but a source of income by way of dairy production. The Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) already has programs on how to integrate carabao dairy production into regular farming activities. And the PCC has reported remarkable results from farmers who have integrated carabao dairy farming operations into their regular crop-raising activities.

The opportunity to instill the concept or paradigm to modernize the country’s agriculture sector is also presented in Republic Act (RA) 11203, or the “Rice Tariffication Law” that establishes the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Program (RCEP). RA 11203 allocates P10 billion per year for RCEP in the next six years up to 2024. Of the P10 billion, P5 billion would be invested for farm mechanization, P3 billion for the provision of high-yielding seeds, P1 billion for credit support, and P1 billion for training of rice farmers.

Properly implemented and judiciously spent, the P10 billion could reduce the price of producing palay (unmilled rice), which currently stands at P12.72 per kilo in the Philippines. That is higher compared to Thailand’s P8.86 per kilo and Vietnam’s P6.22 per kilo.

Implementation of RCEP can lower the production cost of palay by as much as P6 per kilo.

However, modernization and the use of modern technology like balance nutrient management and others must also cover other crops, particularly those with export potential in processed or value-added form like coffee, cacao, cassava, tropical fruits, rubber, among others. Relative to that, there is a need to diversify crop production in the Philippine agricultural landscape.

About 80 percent of the country’s farmlands are devoted to only three crops: rice, corn, and coconut.

Modernizing Philippine agriculture would also need attracting the youth into farming, as the average age of farmers in the country is from 56 to 60 years old.

Since the youth are tech-savvy and receptive to technology, their entry into the agriculture sector, especially as agripreneurs and infomediaries, would greatly help modernize Philippine agriculture. Hence, programs, projects and policies to attract more of the youth into the agriculture sector are a must.

In training the youth, the country has dozens of good agriculture colleges and universities that have graduated thousands of agriculture scientists and specialists. Philippine agriculture universities have in fact been acknowledged to have trained many of the experts and practitioners that helped raise the agriculture sectors in neighboring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam – which have overtaken the country in terms of overall agriculture production, farm-level productivity and exports.

Thailand and Vietnam’s agriculture development each has also been anchored on building enterprises for farmers, which allowed them to tap the export market.

So in the Philippines, agripreneurship should also form part of the paradigm to modernize Philippine agriculture, as farming and fisheries should be treated as business undertakings or industries, which brings us to the next paradigm of industrialization.