THE Global Food Security Index (GFSI) announced in the last quarter of 2018 that Philippines fall short from the average food supply to feed its people. Two identified reasons for the food crisis: First, lack of agricultural research and development; and second, is corruption.
Admitting the shortage and corruption, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte once said “agriculture is the weakest link in the economy” and ordered to minimize the preprocessing of importing rice to curtail the prevalence of corruption that dominates in the rice industry.
The United Nations projected that the word will have 9.8 billion populations by 2050 and recommended to enhance food production. In response, the senate committee chair on agriculture senator Cynthia Villar encouraged to increase food production by 70 percent through urban gardening to produce own food; teach the people of mechanization, technology, financial literacy to become productive and competitive; and establish 1,855 farm schools throughout the country.
Along this vein, the Department of Agriculture (DA) offered loans amounting to P300,000 to P500,000 to young farmers from 18 to 30 years old. The loan is payable in five years at zero interest under the Kapital Access for Young Agripreneurs (Kaya) program. Somehow the P1 billion funds will hook young Filipinos to go back into farming, because the farming generation is expiring.
DA missed the critical studies for having this program. Why? Most of those who will avail the loan at ages 18 to 30 do not come from the middle or upper class that from their cots and cribs have been enjoying the comfort of air-conditioned homes and even air-conditioned classrooms.
So most likely, the ones who will be attracted to this offer are the sons and daughters of the farmers who have been exposed to the extreme conditions in the fields. But unfortunately, this supposedly second or third generation farmers have been indoctrinated by their frustrated parents, to migrate for a greener pasture in the urban, “because we don’t want to see you like us resembling to working carabaos under the scorching heat of the sun, yet at the end of the day only landlords and middlemen rakes-in the advantage.” This is true, and I can vouch because I grow and live being a farmer and my parents are farmers too.
The need for systematic agriculturists was already there even in the past decades. In fact, like some of my contemporaries in high school, when we received the results of our National College Entrance Exam (NCEE), even with our good ratings, if I may brag, were still recommended to take agriculture in college. But for us it was a big “NO, NO” because the government failed to address the quandary why no one wanted to be a farmer.
Now, another program of the DA is the Agrinegosyo who offered a loan amounting from P300 thousand to P15 million to individuals or institutions who already engaged in farming. Sounds good, as we always look at the positive side. But like Kaya, this must be offered to the lumads who owned vast of fertile ancestral lands.
But what happened to the lumad farmers in Benguet? The DA could have demonstrated their concern to these farmers to brand the agriculture programs attractive. The farmers in the area have a good harvest, but the farm price of cabbage is P4 per kilo, trucked to the drop-off at P5 per kilo, then to the middlemen at P8 and finally to the consumers at P40 per kilo. One farmer invested P50 thousand for farm inputs but the gross yield was only P23 thousand. Where is the Department of Agriculture in this scenario?
Is it not that DA encouraged the farmers to produce plenty of foods, substantial for the booming population? If the cause of lower price is due to the influx of supplies, was the department unaware of the season? They should have planned ahead and assist where to fly the supplies, to demand a good price if only to gratify the ever sacrificing farmers.
Utilizations are basic in economics. The vegetables could have fed some of the 2.5 million self-rated poor Filipinos experiencing “involuntary” hunger as SWS survey bared in July 2019.
Let us just pray that Kaya and the Agrinegosyo will never become another fertile ground of corruption while the farmers are still in trauma to the P728-million fertilizer scam.
And I hope that the 40-centavo conviction of anti-graft Sandiganbayan to four former DA officials will be a deliberate lesson for all bureaucrats.