(Item 7 of the Agenda)
26. The Expert Consultation was informed that historically, the burden of providing the bulk of useful statistics and information has always been with government. It was only in the past decade that the private sector started venturing into providing information service, albeit, mostly resulting from re-packaging government-originating basic information.
Public Sector Initiatives
27. Most governments had at least one census and statistical agency providing information support that enabled them to prepare policies, develop programs and projects and monitor successes or failures of these development instruments. Moreover, the statistics or information units served as governments arm for delivering public service, specifically information dissemination. The public-sector institutions which were involved in the area of agriculture and agribusiness statistics are briefly described below.
28. Bureau of Agricultural Statistics or BAS was established in the early 50s as the Bureau of Agricultural Economics to collect agricultural statistics and prepare economic studies on the agriculture sector. It was later given another mandate to develop a system of collection of information on the marketing of agricultural products, and disseminate the same in the form of periodic market news. BAS received USAID grants that aimed to assist improve overall agricultural productivity, by (a) improving survey designs for grains and livestock; (b) massive statistical training (degree and non-degree) for its personnel; (c) upgrading of its data processing capability; and (d) pilot testing various market information dissemination strategies. BAS normative information service to two key subsectors in the agribusiness community (the policymakers and selected farmers cooperatives), were being made either as direct service or through other government facilities. Another mode of direct farm-based information service was a recent (1999) FAO-funded project on farm record-keeping, initially piloted by the Philippine Statistical Association for three cropping periods in 1995-1996 and revived by the FAO in response to a formal appeal by the farmers cooperatives to the Secretary of Agriculture.
29. Agricultural Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS), located in the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture and with a mandate to provide farmers and agribusinesses with marketing assistance and investment information.
30. Agricultural and Fisheries Information Service (AFIS), a unit under the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture with a mandate to package and disseminate information on agriculture and fisheries production and marketing. It served as the media outfit of the DA that prepares and maintains assorted information materials covering a variety of issues in agriculture, production technology guides for various crops translated into several dialects and illustrated in komiks (cartoons).
31. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), a line agency that catered to the information needs of the business sector. Its major clientele groups were those engaged in manufacturing and trade. Its Bureau of Export Trade Promotion managed Tradeline Philippines, a web-based information system that contained Philippine Trade Statistics, listing of exporters/suppliers and local/foreign buyers, their addresses and product and market profiles.
32. National Statistics Office (NSO), the governments repository of general-purpose statistics generated from various surveys and censuses, including agribusiness-related statistics. Most data collection and processing were done through its field offices nationwide, the lowest level of which was the district. It maintained 29 statistical publication series that provide the main medium for disseminating official statistics. The Census of Agriculture, which was normally conducted after the decennial Census of Population and Housing was implemented in collaboration with the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics of the Department of Agriculture.
Private Sector Initiatives
33. Agribusiness system participants were varied and widespread. Moreover, some were grouped into organizations that were basically venues for policy advocacy with government. However, with regard to market information needs, it was an each to his own arena. Large and medium agribusiness firms usually had corporate planning and marketing units that gathered production and marketing data to support in planning their own production and project sales. Small firms organizational structures may not be as sophisticated as the larger ones; hence their information systems were usually simple that seemed to suit their near-term needs and budget for market intelligence. The private-sector organizations are described below.
34. Philippine Statistical Association (PSA). This association was a 50-year old non-government professional organization of statisticians that was basically concerned with advocating and promoting the statistical profession in the public and private sectors. From 1989 to 1997 it received two USAID grants: the Accelerated Agricultural Production Project (AAPP) and Agribusiness Systems Assistance Program (ASAP). Under AAPP (1989-1992), it collaborated with BAS in pilot testing various dissemination strategies for marketing information, in designing and implementing massive statistical training program for BAS personnel. The Statistical Development and Analysis in Support of the Agribusiness Sector (SDASAS) project, started primarily as a facilitating mechanism to improve the BAS statistical services and make it more responsive to the needs of the agribusiness sector. At mid-project implementation, SDASAS expanded its function, providing direct data services to the private sector through the Agribusiness System for Statistical Information Services and Technology, or ASSIST.
35. University of Asia and the Pacifics (UAP) Center for Food and Agribusiness. This private academic institution was the most visible, offering undergraduate and masteral degrees as well as non-degree trainings and seminars in various agribusiness topics. The Center also has its own agribusiness information service. It had the longest-running monthly agribusiness publication which drew support from its corporate patrons in agribusiness.
36. Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization, Inc. (PHILFOODEX). One of several umbrella associations of the agribusiness sector, it was established in 1986 and now has 200 members including those from allied industries. PHILFOODEX focused on the planning, development and sourcing of raw materials, on research and technology development, on the improvement of the manufacturing efficiency and productivity, and promotion of sound trade practices in order to be competitive and responsive to the changing international food market trends.
37. San Miguel Corporation (SMC). This was the largest food and industrial conglomerate in the Philippines with substantial businesses outside the country. It had a central Corporate Planning Department that used a lot of economic and agribusiness statistics. SMC also had an agribusiness division that maintains databases for corn and coconut. Other divisions like SMC Foods and Poultry and Feeds have their own databases which mostly came from government and which were being updated regularly. In addition to their data, they expressed the desire for information on market opportunities, return on investment and others that would facilitate and fast track investment analysis on their part.
Data Users Views About Agribusiness Statistical and Information Systems
38. Interviews of some agribusiness participants showed that their immediate concern about agribusiness statistics and information systems was the need to get the most current and accurate information in a quick and timely fashion in order to make informed and sound day-to-day business decisions. This was a very valid concern since most agricultural commodity production and marketing systems were by nature cyclical and short-term.
The National Information Network (NIN)
39. The NIN was a key provision of the AFMA of 1997 which would see accelerated implementation within this year. It referred to an information network which linked all offices and levels of the Department with various research institutions and local end-users, providing easy access to information and marketing services related to agriculture and fisheries. The NIN would provide for the electronic exchange of valuable information between DA and its bureaus, regional field units, attached agencies and other government and non-government institutions involved in the production and utilization of agriculture and fisheries data.
40. Agriculture and fisheries enterprises would also be able to access/use the NIN. In this regard, the AFMA also authorized DA to formulate guidelines and charge fees to the private sector entities that use the NIN. This strategy would allow for cost recovery for further improvement and sustainability without disregarding equity in accessing the network, particularly by small and subsistence farmers and fisherfolk and their associations. Moreover, this information service to the small and medium enterprises would also provide the DA with an opportunity to improve the timeliness of its databases by designing the NIN to be an interactive system. This could yet be the realization of efforts initiated by PSA in getting the private sector particularly trade and industry associations to provide the government with accurate and timely data on their activities.