AGRARIAN REFORM Secretary John R. Castriciones said farmers need to encourage their children to take up agricultural courses to lower the average age of the farming workforce.

Appearing on the Department of Agrarian Reform’s “Radyo Agraryo” program, Mr. Castriciones said the average age of farmers is 57, raising questions about the sustainability of the food supply.

“In a decade, this farmer can no longer be as strong and as efficient on the field as he or she was in the earlier days. The prospects for retirement are dim for this farmer unless the younger set take over the farmer’s tasks,” Mr. Castriciones said.

As a result, Mr. Castriciones called on parents to encourage their children to take up agriculture studies in order to assist aging farmers.

However, Mr. Castriciones said young people are staying away from farming, which they associate with hard work and poverty. He added that parents also aspire for their children to work in cities or overseas.

Mr. Castriciones said the best hope is for more young people to take an interest in farming, ideally through formal study to improve food production.

“The government must be on their side to intervene and nurture them through credit facilities, technical assistance, and support services,” Mr. Castriciones said.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the agriculture sector employed 9.70 million people and accounted for 22.9% of the workforce in 2019.

Of those employed in the sector, some 7.46 million were male while 2.24 million were female.

The PSA said children working in the agriculture sector numbered around 560,000 in 2019.

“A child is considered working or economically active if at any time during the reference period he or she is engaged in any economic activity for at least one hour. He may be studying, looking for work and/or housekeeping at the same time,” the PSA said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave