AECON 2019 highlights food, agriculture, and SDGs

On its hundredth year of institutionalization as a degree program in the university and in Asia, agricultural economics professionals from academe, research, and policy sectors have stepped up from optimizing agricultural production to studying the sustainability of food and agriculture amidst global challenges such as increasing populations, rising food prices, and climate change.

This was at the 2nd International Conference on Applied and Agricultural Economics (AECON 2019), held at the Umali Auditorium at SEARCA on Oct. 11 to 12. and organized by the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics (DAAE) of the College of Economics and Management and the Applied and Agricultural Economics Society, Inc.

DAAE traces its roots back to the Department of Rural Economics in 1919 at what was then the UP College of Agriculture, the first to offer courses in agricultural economics in Asia.

This year, the department emphasized the continuing relevance of their field at AECON 2019 with the theme “Agricultural economics at the frontier: Learning from the past and shaping the future of the global agricultural economy.”

Dr. Agham C. Cuevas and Dr. Antonio Jesus A. Quilloy, dean of CEM and director of DAAE, respectively, expressed their hopes that the conference will allow the field stakeholders to craft the proper responses to challenges in the field and identify measures that it can take in the next century in research, instruction, and public service. This was seconded by Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, director of SEARCA, who identified the agricultural sector as the backbone of the economy.

The conference gathered researchers, policy makers, industry stakeholders, and students to exchange the latest information about the issues and challenges facing the agriculture industry in relation to the sustainable development agendas (SDGs) through plenary and parallel sessions on sustainable productivity growth, human capital development, technological innovation, and institutional economics and agricultural development.

Dr. Cristina C. David, former head of the Social Sciences Division of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and former senior researcher at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, provided an overview of agricultural economics in Asia in her keynote address and emphasized the major role of agricultural growth on poverty reduction.

Dr. Fabrizio Bresciani, a regional economist of the Asia and Pacific Division at the International Fund for Agricultural Development, added a perspective about the trends and challenges facing Asia amidst agricultural and rural transformation.

These were further discussed at the plenary sessions led by leading local and international researchers. They were Dr. Jikun Huang, director of both the China Center for Agricultural Policy and the New Rural Development Institute at Peking University, China; Dr. Cielito F. Habito, professor emeritus at Ateneo de Manila; Dr. Paul S. Teng, adjunct senior fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies and managing director and dean of the National Institute of Education both at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore; and Dr. Jean Balié, platform leader of the Agri-Food Policy at IRRI.

Dr. V. Bruce J. Tolentino, a member of the Monetary Board at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and former deputy general of IRRI, also led a special lecture about the history and implications of rice market liberalization in the country which he said should have been done decades before.

At the beginning of the program, USec. Rodolfo V. Vicera of the Department of Agriculture (DA), representing President Rodrigo Duterte, appealed for support for the DA in creating solutions to address farm productivity, the aging demographic of farmers, and lack of technical experts in the field.

Mia Barbara Aranas, senior researcher at the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development and representing Dr. Reynaldo V. Eborra, identified agricultural economics as a vital component of agriculture and cited its important contributions to planning and optimizing the intervening efforts and programs in the sector.

For his part, Dr. Fernando C. Sanchez, Jr., represented by vice chancellor for Academic Affairs Portia G. Lapitan, emphasized the importance of achieving food security and sustainability at this time and encouraged productive partnerships and sharing of different perspectives to build a sustainable, resilient, and responsive agricultural sector. (Jessa Jael S. Arana)

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