/ 31 May 2024

SENATOR Imee Marcos expressed her optimism for the awardees and participants of the Young Farmers Challenge Program 2023 as the much-anticipated national awarding ceremony and program kick-off approach.

Additionally, her initiated BIGAYAN 2024 (Bigas at Bayan) thought leaders roundtable discussion and rice summit on the rice crisis will also take place on June 6 in Nueva Ecija.

“Alam kong marami ang duda kung kaya pa ba natin i-ahon ang sektor ng agrikultura sa nalalapit na hinaharap lalo’t may krisis tayo sa bigas ngayon, marami sa ating mga kababayan ang nagugutom, at hindi ito mahahanapan ng solusyon agad-agad. Rice prices persist as the most stubborn cause of inflation, impacting worst of all the poor who spend half of their income on food,” Marcos said.

“But for as long as there are committed young Filipino farmers out there who are willing to keep our agriculture sector alive, my hope will always remain high,” she added.

The YFC program is a competitive financial grant assistance of the Department of Agriculture.

It is intended to bring back the Filipino youth to agriculture by providing access to capital to enable them to venture into profitable agriculture, agri-fishery, and agribusiness and agri-entrepreneurship enterprises, and providing business development assistance.

“The young are not encouraged to get into the agriculture sector mainly because they see farmers remaining poor despite working daily—rain or shine—and thus, they prefer to seek more profitable professions in our big cities,” Marcos noted.

“We need programs such as the YFC to make farming more attractive to them, encourage agri-fishery and livestock innovations, otherwise we will continue to lose workers in the agriculture sector,” she added.

“Through ‘BIGAYAN 2024’, our young farmers bring hope and innovation to our failing agricultural sector. A roundtable discussion by thought leaders from various sectors will posit new solutions to our rice crisis,” Marcos stressed.

The senator noted the average age of Filipino farmers is between 57 and 59 years, with data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority showing the agriculture and forestry sub-sector recording the largest drop in annual decreases in the number of employed persons in March 2024 at 881,000.

Since the YFC program started in 2021, there have been a total of 3,625 YFC beneficiaries operating their agribusiness enterprises in 1) crop production, poultry, livestock, aquaculture, vermiculture, urban agriculture, horticulture; 2) food processing like chocolate, mushroom by-products, processed vegetables, processed fruits; 3) digital agriculture; and 4) supply chain business solutions.

The YFC has also monitored 219 enterprises, held local trade expositions and exhibitions, and KADIWA activities.

For 2023, out of 4,812 applicants nationwide for the Start-Up category, there will be 496 provincial awardees; 48 regional awardees for the Upscale category; and 14 enterprises from state universities and colleges for the Intercollegiate Competition.

Under Business Development Assistance, financial grants will also be awarded to SUCs, LGUs and farmers cooperatives and associations.