A DECADE or so ago, the agriculture beat was not an exciting newspaper assignment for reporters. One got to write only about those cross-bred rice varieties that the IRRI in Los Banos was working on, new fertilizers and a variety of guava introduced from Thailand called "guaple."
But a handful of journalists who had science and technology as their main interest stuck to writing about agriculture. They embraced it with passion in their profession.
Today an ever-increasing number of journalists are converging on the agriculture beat. Agriculture now has nationwide audience and followers, and its importance as a sector can be seen by the manner in which previous government administrations have harped on it as the anchor sector of their development plans.
On my own, I can cite a number of factors why the agriculture beat has become a challenging assignment. Here are my observations:
1) Agriculture in the Philippines has adopted the latest science and technology approaches. These include product diversification, cross-breeding, adoption to weather conditions and climatic environment, marketing and export, overall farm management, among others.
2) Today agriculture as a business venture has drawn into its fold fisheries development, livestock production and marketing, backyard production of vegetables and fruit-bearing trees, farm and orchard layouting, and so forth. It has become a diversified-interest newspaper beat.
3) The academe, government, independent producers and NGOs engage in the full training of agriculturists and technicians and have utilized them in managing a progressive, diversified agriculture conglomerate.
4) All these developments have tremendously improved the lot of those who devote full-time to agriculture, propping up to new heights the technology, management, distribution, warehousing and financing, and the most vital of all, profitability of the agri-business.
5) Your average farmer has undergone stature transformation -- from the average farmer-planter to being a gentleman-farmer, and now as agribusinessman. He is the center of attention during trade shows and exhibitions, all dressed up as the new industry spokesman and symbol of the bubbly and diversified sector.
Last Thursday evening, I was invited to the 30th anniversary of the Philippine Agricultural Journalists. It also coincided with the awarding of this year's BINHI Awards at the Camelot Hotel in Quezon City.
PAJ's president is the Manila Bulletin's Sanny Galvez who is actually serving his fifth term of president of the country's biggest association of journalists in newspapers, television, radio, government, corporations, the academe and consultancy firms covering the agriculture beat.
Sanny actually was also PAJ president from 1978 to 1980, and from 1984 to 1986. PAJ was founded in September 1976.
The BINHI Awards focused on the Agriculture Journalist of the Year. Others were outstanding journalists in the industry, writing excellent articles on various subjects as agri-business, farm management, the environment, the CARP and its positive implications to the farmers, pollution, corporate communication materials, among others. Each winner received a handsome trophy and hefty cash prize.
Sen. Ramon B. Magsaysay Jr., guest speaker, pledged his continuous support to the agriculture sector and to the PAJ, in particular, in terms of looking for market of agriculture produce overseas, and in arranging for possible financial assistance.
Former food minister Jess Tanchanco emphasized the importance of agriculture in our national survival.
Noteworthy is the editorial-feature of PAJ's publication, BINHI, which says in part:
"All these years, PAJ remains a great supporter and ally in the pursuit of major breakthroughs in agricultural science and technology, and in translating …