Saturday, February 24

Searca tapped to help digitalize food sector

BY LEANDER C. DOMINGO

LAGUNA (May 27)—The Economic Research Institute for Asean and East Asia (ERIA) has tapped a Philippine-based inter-government treaty organization to develop the guidelines for the utilization of digital technologies for agriculture in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

Glenn Gregorio, director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca), said his agency was tapped to develop the guidelines that will be part of the project titled “Enhancing Food Supply Chain Resilience and Food Security in Asean with Utilization of Digital Technologies” of ERIA with the Asean Secretariat.

“Digital technologies and innovations are evident to support the Asean economic community transforming to a more resilient and sustainable agriculture and food system. However, the varying capacities among the Asean member-states (AMS) create a divide in the digital ecosystem,” Gregorio said.

He said the regional guidelines on digital technology use, which is also expected to shape the digital transformation of agriculture in the region, will provide policy recommendations to the AMS for more informed decision-making.

Pedcris Orencio, Searca program head for Research and Thought Leadership, explained that the guidelines will specifically outline conditions and actions needed for the inclusive and sustainable use of digital technologies for agriculture and food system improvements, including interventions to facilitate digital technology uptake in the agriculture and food sector.

“The Asean guidelines are intended to facilitate digital inclusion on the use of innovative technologies that would help farming families in the AMS to deal with agriculture and food production challenges sustainably,” Orencio said.

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He said the development interventions are also indispensable in assessing the impacts of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic that currently affects the Asean food and agriculture sector.

Searca said it has been holding knowledge-sharing workshops with AMS for the development of guidelines to equip the region with recommendations and implementation considerations for making informed decisions that will shape the digital transformation of agriculture in the region.

With the latest series of virtual workshops by Searca, ERIA and the Asean secretariat, experts shared their experiences on the digitalization in the Asean agri-food sector and their various initiatives on smart agriculture.

Among the experts, Paul Teng of Nanyang Technological University of Singapore and a Searca senior fellow discussed the challenges of agricultural digitalization in AMS including the uncertainty in business viability and scalability, limited freedom for farmers to operate with data across multiple data service providers due to prohibitive costs, and the gap in digital agriculture services among AMS.