The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) is set to lead the development of national road maps for key agri-based value chains where smallholders play a prominent role in five countries, including the Philippines. Under the five-year project "Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in the ASEAN Region: Responding to Food Security and Inclusiveness Concerns [ATMI-ASEAN]," SEARCA will take the lead in crafting the national road map for the pork-based processed products value chain in the Philippines. The priority commodities in the other ASEAN member states (AMS) covered by the ATMI-ASEAN project are maize for Cambodia and Laos, pulses for Myanmar and pig for Vietnam. The five countries recently completed a value chain study of their chosen commodity, which will serve as the take-off points for the roadmap development. "The national road map is intended as a set of strategies, programs and specific activities that will benefit the stakeholders at all levels of the value chain," said Dr. Pedcris M. Orencio, SEARCA program head for Research and Thought Leadership. He explained that "stakeholders in the Philippines will identify a shared regional vision for the development of the targeted value chains in the ASEAN region, including the role of smallholder agriculture in their upgrade and scaling-up." Orencio added that such vision will help identify key policies, food safety and quality standards, and opportunities for cooperation in research and development. These, in turn, will support progress towards achieving an improved policy and regulatory framework at the international level and fostering the policy dialogue on regional food security and market integration among AMS. SEARCA Director Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio said "the national road maps to be crafted starting this month are expected to provide solutions to manage the process of structural transformation of smallholder agriculture and strengthen agriculture's contribution to the competitiveness of Southeast Asian economies." "This aligns with SEARCA's current focus on academe-industry-government interconnectivity to strengthen agricultural innovations and promote market-driven agribusiness development in the Philippines and the rest of the Southeast Asian region to accelerate structural transformation in the agriculture sector," Gregorio said. The Department of Agriculture (DA) is the focal agency for the development of the national roadmap on pork-based processed products value chain in the country. DA Assistant Secretary Lerey A. Panes earlier highlighted the importance of the ATMI-ASEAN project, particularly the pioneering value chain study, in revising the country's swine industry and in helping smallholder or backyard hog raisers. Dr. Imelda J. Santos, DA-Bureau of Animal Industry-National Veterinary Quarantine Services Division chief said during an ATMI-ASEAN roundtable discussion that there has been an upward trend in the country's pig population in 2010-2019 and 65 percent of this are from backyard farms, while 35 percent are imported. The value chain study also takes into account the African swine fever (ASF) that afflicted hogs in some provinces in Luzon. Dr. Santos described ASF as the most economically devastating swine disease during the same forum. Dr. Orencio said the study on value chain of pork-based processed products in Luzon showed that Filipino families have a general preference for pork compared to beef and chicken, and that there is increase in pork consumption due to an increase in population and income. He shared that initial policy recommendations of the study, which was conducted by the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Economics and Management Alumni Foundation Inc. (UPLB-CEMAFI) for the ATMI-ASEAN project, include expansion of yellow corn production in light of the technological seed innovation as well as live animal improvement due to improved animal inventory. Dr. Gregorio said "the ATMI-ASEAN project team noted how this pandemic has affected the export potential of the commodities and would be an important consideration in developing policies." He stressed that "the roadmap will allow the government to gain traction and engage the industry and private sector which are potent partners in improving the value chain." The national road mapping is part of the technical assistance on planning and policy development component of the ATMI-ASEAN project, which is funded by the Rome-based International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The ATMI-ASEAN project is jointly implemented by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and SEARCA.