PRICE POLICIES THAT PENALIZE AGRICULTURE HINDER DEVELOPMENT
ONE OF THE SALIENT FINDINGS of a research by two international agencies is that among 117 countries, agricultural development took off when they removed price policies that penalize agriculture.
This was reported by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD). The research tracked the performance of 117 countries over 45 years to understand which policies have succeeded or failed in eradicating poverty through agriculture.
The report noted that poverty eradication through agriculture depends whether a country has enough agricultural land, how fertile it is, and the demographic pressures.
The other key findings in the research, aside from the price policies that penalize agriculture are: “To determine the development needs of a particular country, look at how much agricultural land is available, how fertile it is, and birth rates.
Public investment in research, extension services, electricity and irrigation are important, but the quality of those services can matter more than quantity.
Land reforms, research institutions and improving access to credit are also critical, but ultimately no country succeeded without a combination of policies and public investments that complemented each other.”
“Inclusive agricultural transformation is the bedrock of development. It can lead to increased productivity, higher incomes, food security and women’s empowerment,” said Carin Smaller, senior policy advisor of IISD. The global analysis explains how progress has been achieved in some countries in recent decades and what steps can be taken for countries to succeed – and the outlook is positive.
“Only 10 countries of the 117 are still categorized as subsistence agriculture compared with 30 in 1970,” explains David Laborde, senior fellow, IFPRI. “Except for countries at war, no country is worse off than they were decades ago. Our report is a clear indication that agricultural transformation fosters economic empowerment for countries and their communities.”
None of the countries studied were able to transform without an appropriate mix of policies and public investment that complemented each other at a given juncture. No single measure alone was sufficient to make good progress,” according to Smaller.
I AM A WEEKEND FARMER, employed as a college professor at the Central Mindanao University in Musuan, Bukidnon. I want to show that I don’t only know how to teach but also how to practice in the farm what I teach. I don’t only impart my know-how to my students but also to farmers who see what I grow in my farm. I am a soil and horticulture expert and it is always my pleasure to share technologies that could help other farmers in making their farming profitable.
People have been asking me why did I choose to grow rubber? Well, for a number of good reasons. For one, rubber is a retirement crop that could last for a lifetime. After five years from planting, we start harvesting the latex and that could last for many years, especially with new technologies that could make old trees productive.
Compared to oil palm, rubber is more advantageous to produce. In oil palm, the harvested nuts should be processed within 24 hours, otherwise, the nuts will be rejected by the oil mill. Rubber, on the other hand, can be stored for years with proper storage while waiting for better prices. While the rubber trees are still young, the rubber plantation can be used for multiple cropping to make the farm income-generating while waiting for the rubber to be harvested.
Multiple cropping in the rubber plantation while the trees are still young requires careful planning prior to establishment. The most compatible crops for intercropping include corn, vegetables and other high-value crops like watermelon, early in the first two years. These are followed by cacao, coffee, gabi, and ginger. By this time, the rubber trees are already partially shading the vacant spaces but still suitable for the intercrops to grow.
While the trees are still small, corn and vegetables will provide continuous income to the family. Coffee and cacao, on the other hand, will be productive in two years from planting so there is a continuous cash flow for the farmer.
Why do I intercrop cacao with rubber? Both crops have a common disease problem ( Phytophthora) but I apply only one control measure to both crops. Cacao is considered as a golden crop because the demand is high and the price is also high at R145 per kilo of fermented beans.
Multiple cropping system is easy but needs careful planning before establishing the plantation. Plan out a program for the possible crop combinations. In my farm, I planted my rubber trees at two meters apart in the row and 10 meters between the rows. In the middle between the rows, I planted dragon fruit at 3 meters between hills. Watermelon was then planted in between dragon fruit and rubber rows, in rotation with corn and sweet potato.
After two years, when the rubber trees have developed a bigger canopy, cacao and coffee trees were established at 3 meters x 3 meters in between the rubber rows, creating 3 rows of cacao between the rubber rows. That’s in the blocks not planted to dragon fruit. With this practice, there’s no need to establish shading for the cacao plants. The rubber trees provided the shade. Gabi and ginger can also be planted in between the cacao rows. The rubber orientation should be preferably from east to west direction, but since my farm is rolling in terrain, contour farming was designed at 10 meters between contour lines.
A hectare or two can be profitable in rubber production under the multiple cropping system. Any location will do provided that one should select the best varieties suitable to the climate of the site. Recommended clones and varieties are available. Just consult the experts.
What’s important in rubber production is proper technology. It pains me to see trucks loaded with logged rubber trees. The farmers have to cut their trees because of the low rubber cup lump prices, ranging from R28 to R35 per kilo. Break-even prices of cup lump is R20 per kilogram. If we can only practice multiple cropping, the farmer will have a continuous source of income. When prices of rubber products increase, the farmer will even gain more.
We have millions of vehicles that need rubber tires and there are countless uses of rubber other than vehicle tires. Thus, rubber has a limitless potential for making farmers rich. Planting rubber and other tree crops is our ultimate contribution in conserving and reinvigorating our environment.
(Editor’s Note: Dr. Reymon P. Ruba is Associate Professor at CMU in Musuan Bukidnon. He is currently the Regional Technical Focal Person for Rubber and Cacao.)
Price policies that penalize agriculture hampers economic development.
Rubber plants intercropped with cacao and gabi.
My six-year old rubber intercropped with 18 months old cacao.
Dragon fruit and watermelon intercropped with rubber.
The author and his fruiting 18-month old cacao.
Ideal stem size of rubber plant for harvesting.