By Francis N. Tolentino
It was my greatest honor to welcome New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last November 12 who flew to the Philippines to attend the 2017 ASEAN Summit. I caught a glimpse of that wonderful smile on her face as she gazed upon the young Filipinos who cheered for her as she arrived at the Clark International Airport in Pampanga. Having been very recently sworn into office last October 26, 2017, Prime Minister Ardern’s visit to the Philippines was one of her first journeys as prime minister.
New Zealand is truly a very progressive country. According to the World Economic Database of the International Monetary Fund (2016), New Zealand ranks 53rd in the world’s economies in terms of nominal Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, despite the increasing trend in New Zealand’s international trade and large-scale manufacturing industry, funding and development in the agriculture sector is not left behind. In fact, New Zealand is the ninth (9th) largest milk producing country in the world, having produced 21.53 million tons of milk in 2016. The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research published in December, 2010, revealed that dairy farming in New Zealand had contributed 2.8% to its Gross Domestic Product and 10.4 billion in export earnings. We need not underscore the nutritional value of milk, especially for young children. As a rich source of calcium, milk can greatly help in the growth and strengthening of human bones, thus increasing height and enabling improved vitamin and mineral absorption.
The Philippines as a developing country can learn much from New Zealand, particularly in the agriculture sector. It is high time perhaps that our own Department of Agriculture devote considerable attention and resources to livestock production and dairy farming, especially when several land areas throughout the country remain unutilized. These areas may be converted to pastures for raising cattle, especially when the quality of the soil in such areas may not be suitable for the growth of crops. In addition to this, Filipino livestock producers and dairy farmers may be given ample assistance in terms of training, necessary equipment, and perhaps also seed capital in order to jumpstart and sustain their livelihood.Similarly, encouraging farmers to engage in livestock production and dairy farming can help create job opportunities for our fellow Filipinos in the countryside.
I further propose that a Bachelor of Science in Dairy Industry degree be added to the list of degrees that young Filipinos may pursue in college. This will ensure that dairy farming in the country will be promoted and sustained in the future. Given appropriate attention, agriculture in general and dairy farming in particular can greatly contribute in boosting the Philippine economy.