By Senator Imee R. Marcos
When the tariffs on meat, rice and corn were first lowered in 2021, the promise was lower prices of these commodities. While runaway inflation has been arrested, prices have not fallen below the promised pre-2021 levels.
Today, as we anticipate the additional worldwide threat of El Niño, can we persist with that failed scheme of cheap importation to lower food prices?
Firstly, relying on imports and modifying the rates are not sustainable policies because other countries are limiting their exportation of food to serve their domestic needs first.
Further, how can much-reduced government collection of import duties on rice, corn, meat products subsidize the agricultural inputs so direly needed by our local farmers?
There is no shortcut to agri sufficiency: the government should fast-track the completion of irrigation facilities so long promised, build warehouses, food storage and an expanded cold chain. The private sector must invest in the countryside, especially in value adding, processing and distribution. Our young farmers need to be provided consolidated farmland, agricultural machinery and training, access to capital and markets—everything we have known for a long time but still refuse to provide.
It is time to review the implementation of the repopulation program of the Department of Agriculture for areas affected by the African Swine Fever, realistically facing the challenge of biosecurity for the 67 percent of our backyard hog raisers.
We need to see the specifics as well of the programs for our corn farmers and poultry raisers. I see line items in the new 2024 General Appropriations Act for fertilizer and fuel subsidies for corn farmers—are they really going to lower production costs and market prices?