Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Editorial: We should not forget our farmers

AGRICULTURE Secretary William Dar said following the effectivity of Republic Act 11203 or Rice Tariffication Law in February 2019, farmers suffered heavily from the drop in farmgate prices of palay (unmilled rice) amid the influx of imports of the staple.

In a September 4, 2019 report of SunStar Philippines, several farmer groups have claimed that prices of palay plummeted to P6 to P10 per kilo following the implementation of rice tarrification.

Dar has revealed plans to impose non-tariff measures, including new sanitary and phytosanitary requirements, to help local farmers. President Rodrigo R. Duterte has also directed the National Food Authority (NFA) to purchase rice from local farmers at a relatively reasonable price.

“What the solution should be or will be for the Secretary of Agriculture to buy all. Magkano ba presyo nila? Magkano presyo nila, bilhin natin. Lugi? Lugi talaga (How much their rice is? Let’s buy their harvest. It would be a loss? It would really be a loss). Are we wasting money? No. We are not wasting an industry. We’re helping an industry,” Duterte said.

For a country known for its agricultural products, it is sad to know the plight of our local farmers. According to the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), poverty incidence among farmers is nearly 35 percent as of 2015.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), which was presented by NAPC Undersecretary Paterna M. Ruiz during the Philippine Press Institute’s Seminar on Poverty Reporting on July 29, 2019, Poverty incidence among farmers is high especially in the Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Administrative Region of Muslim Mindanao, Caraga, Northern Mindanao, and Soccsksargen.

It is sad that many of our farmers do not have it easy for them when it comes to living a comfortable life. On top of that they struggle to meet the demands of the consuming public. With climate change and the increasing cost of farming inputs, many farmers struggle to produce what the consuming public needs.

Coupled with this stress are probably some government policies that may have not benefitted them. For example, the Rice Tariffication Law was said to support our rice farmers but now that it is implemented, it might have caused more harm than good.

Other agricultural sectors are also facing their respective challenges that are affecting our farmers. For the banana industry, government efforts are not enough to curb the Panama disease or other existing problems like increasing international competition or high tariffs in some countries. Copra prices have also dropped to around P15 per kilogram.

With so many challenges the agricultural sector is facing, it is also greatly affecting the farmers.

The farmers deserve all the help they can get. Aside from offering financial assistance to them, the government might want to consider full educational scholarship for farmers and their children. The government may also want to make technologies more accessible to the farmers to help them improve their productivity and income.

If nothing is done to help them, then our food security will be put in peril.


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