THE coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic has highlighted the need for countries to be self-sustainable and reinforce their agriculture industries to strengthen food security programs.
This was stressed by various groups of sugar planters and farmers in the country, like the Asociacion de Agricultores de la Carlota y Pontevedra Inc. (AALCPI), the second biggest group of sugar farmers in the country with over 10,000 membership.
Other groups included Kabankalan-Ilog Planters Association (Kabilog), Sugarcane Farmers of Bukidnon Multi-Purpose Cooperative (SFBMPC), and Unaffiliated Isabela-Cagayan Sugar Farmer.
The groups, in a joint statement Tuesday, July 14, said while neighboring countries like Vietnam and Thailand are doubling their efforts in this area to avoid dependency on importation of basic goods, particularly food in this time of pandemic, Philippines has been discouraging the growth of certain industries to pave way for more importation.
The most recent victim of this policy is the livestock industry that recently raised a howl over the pronouncement of the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) that poultry growers should limit their production to make space for imports, they said.
"We, in the sugar industry, support the call of the United Broiler Raisers Association to the Department of Agriculture (DA) to put a halt on the importation program and address the disconnect of continued importation vis-à-vis the President's call to strengthen food security," the groups said.
The statement added: "We too, have been victims of unabated importation of sugar and other sweeteners in the past and we feel the urgency to call on the DA to strengthen local agriculture industries through well-meaning programs with the end view of improving productivity and self-sustainability."
The joint statement was signed by AALCPI president Roberto Cuenca, Kabilog president Pablo Luis Azcona, SFBMPC chairman emeritus Governor Jose Maria Zubiri Jr., and Edgardo Paulino Eugenio of Unaffiliated Isabela-Cagayan Sugar Farmer.
It stated that at present, the sugar industry is fortunate that even with the low demand for the commodity brought about by the pandemic, the perceived shortfall in the country's annual consumption of sugar may even-out because of a slight increase in total production in the last crop year as compared to previous years.
However, when business is back-to-normal, the industry may again be subjected to unabated importation that has caused misery to the millions of stakeholders.
They believe that there is no better time than now to re-assess government programs and streamline regulatory requirements to hasten modernization of our various agriculture industries.
Also, there is a need to put a stop in looking at importation as the only answer when demand for supply is tight.
"We join the call for the DA to be more circumspect in their intervention measures, whether its oversupply or tightness in supply," they said, adding: "We join the call of our livestock partners for the national government to have faith in our Filipino farmers to produce the agricultural goods the country needs."