The Cebu City Agriculture Department (CAD) has proposed a budget of P60 million to purchase hoses that will enable farmers to connect to more distant water sources like rivers or springs, drums in which to store water, pumps, knapsack sprayers for spraying medicines onto crops and fertilizer.
It’s a paltry sum to address the plight of farmers in mountain barangays that supply 40 percent of high-value crops to the city’s markets as well as to neighboring cities in the metro.
According to the special report of SunStar Cebu reporter Jerra Mae Librea, the farmers have had to deal with smaller harvests because of the dry season.
Things are more likely to get worse before they get better after the weather bureau Pagasa issued an advisory last March that the country may experience the El Niño weather pattern in the coming months that may even persist until 2024, which increases the likelihood of below-normal rainfall conditions.
What does this mean to the average men and women on the streets?
Although prices have so far remained stable, there is a more than slight likelihood that the situation will change in the months to come.
Already the Philippines, and that includes Cebu City and the rest of the province, is facing skyrocketing food inflation that can be attributed to supply issues and high fuel costs, among others.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said “the Philippines is the most food-insecure country in emerging Asia due to its reliance on imported food to feed its expanding population.”
Based on CAD data, Cebu City “imports” more than half of its food supply from Mindanao and other neighboring towns in Cebu Province.
If something happens to the supply chain, the city and its residents are in for a rude awakening. Prices of fruits and vegetables, as well as livestock and poultry will skyrocket.
So proposing a budget of P60 million to purchase hoses, drums and whatnot is treating the symptom and not the disease.
Instead of waiting for the worst-case scenario to happen, Mayor Michael Rama’s administration should intervene to ensure that farmers have a steady access to cheap water so they can continue to supply affordable food to residents.
It should not wait for a Metro Manila-based tycoon to step in and save the day because he “verbally committed to help the City in its efforts to implement greenhouse farming through the introduction of and training in new technology.”
Last year, Rama reportedly secured a commitment from another Metro Manila-based tycoon to fund and build a dam in less than three years.
So what happened to that?
It’s hard to think that just a few months back, the City’s main problem was flooding.