Press Release
May 30, 2024


Senator Imee Marcos has high hopes for the awardees and participants of the Young Farmers Challenge (YFC) Program 2023 as the much-anticipated national awarding ceremony and program kick-off, along with her initiated "BIGAYAN 2024 (Bigas at Bayan)" thought leaders roundtable discussion and rice summit on the rice crisis, take place on June 6 in Nueva Ecija, considered as the "Rice Granary" of the Philippines.

"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.

"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," Marcos said.

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

She added, "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."

Taking advantage of the presence of the awardees, LGUs, and agriculture stakeholders, one of the highlights of the first ever rice summit coinciding with the 4th year of the YFC will be the scheduled thought leaders roundtable discussion on the country's rice situation, dubbed "BIGAYAN 2024 (Bigas at Bayan)", to be participated in by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), DA, National Irrigation Administration (NIA), local government unit (LGU) representatives, Young Farmers Challenge Alumni (SAKAHON), Federation of Free Farmers, University of the Philippines School of Economics, agricultural cooperatives, top KADIWA performing cooperatives, and millers, among others.

"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 (PSA) 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) production (crop production, poultry, livestock, aquaculture, vermiculture, urban agriculture, horticulture); 2) food processing (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 (SUCs) for the Intercollegiate Competition.

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

The grant assistance to awardees will be distributed at the 2023 awarding ceremonies taking place at the Rice Biotechnology Center (RBC), PhilRice, in Nueva Ecija.

The event will also showcase the products of the YFC 2023 provincial, regional and national winners and launch the 2024 YFC competition.

The senator has a pending bill (Senate Bill No. 180) that seeks to establish and institutionalize the YFC program and create the Young Farmers and Fisherfolk Challenge Council.

"Until today, young farmers are burdened by their lack of access to knowledge, information and education; the lack of available land to till or affordable credit; a lack of 'green jobs', and hardly any consultation or participation venues for the youth in agricultural policy debate and formulation.

"The bill seeks to address the myriad problems of the youth in the countryside by decreeing a new program which, through a whole-of-government approach, undertakes the renewed participation of young farmers and fisherfolk in the development of rural areas," Marcos noted in her explanatory note.

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