We should not for­get our farm­ers

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion -

AGRI­CUL­TURE Sec­re­tary Wil­liam Dar said fol­low­ing the ef­fec­tiv­ity of Repub­lic Act 11203 or Rice Tar­if­fi­ca­tion Law in Fe­bru­ary 2019, farm­ers suf­fered heav­ily from the drop in far­m­gate prices of palay (un­milled rice) amid the in­flux of im­ports of the sta­ple.

In a Septem­ber 4, 2019 re­port of Sun­star Philip­pines, sev­eral farmer groups have claimed that prices of palay plum­meted to P6 to P10 per kilo fol­low­ing the im­ple­men­ta­tion of rice tar­ri­fi­ca­tion.

Dar has re­vealed plans to im­pose non-tar­iff mea­sures, in­clud­ing new san­i­tary and phy­tosan­i­tary re­quire­ments, to help lo­cal farm­ers. Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo R. Duterte has also di­rected the Na­tional Food Au­thor­ity (NFA) to pur­chase rice from lo­cal farm­ers at a rel­a­tively rea­son­able price.

“What the so­lu­tion should be or will be for the Sec­re­tary of Agri­cul­ture to buy all. Magkano ba presyo nila? Magkano presyo nila, bil­hin natin. Lugi? Lugi ta­laga (How much their rice is? Let’s buy their har­vest. It would be a loss? It would re­ally be a loss). Are we wast­ing money? No. We are not wast­ing an in­dus­try. We’re help­ing an in­dus­try,” Duterte said.

For a coun­try known for its agri­cul­tural prod­ucts, it is sad to know the plight of our lo­cal farm­ers. Ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Anti-poverty Com­mis­sion (NAPC), poverty in­ci­dence among farm­ers is nearly 35 per­cent as of 2015.

Data from the Philippine Sta­tis­tics Au­thor­ity (PSA), which was pre­sented by NAPC Un­der­sec­re­tary Pa­terna M. Ruiz dur­ing the Philippine Press In­sti­tute’s Sem­i­nar on Poverty Re­port­ing on July 29, 2019, Poverty in­ci­dence among farm­ers

is high es­pe­cially in the Cen­tral Visayas, East­ern Visayas, Zam­boanga Penin­sula, Ad­min­is­tra­tive Re­gion of Muslim Min­danao, Caraga, North­ern Min­danao, and Socc­sksar­gen.

It is sad that many of our farm­ers do not have it easy for them when it comes to liv­ing a com­fort­able life. On top of that they strug­gle to meet the de­mands of the con­sum­ing pub­lic. With cli­mate change and the in­creas­ing cost of farm­ing in­puts, many farm­ers strug­gle to pro­duce what the con­sum­ing pub­lic needs.

Cou­pled with this stress are prob­a­bly some gov­ern­ment poli­cies that may have not ben­e­fit­ted them. For ex­am­ple, the Rice Tar­if­fi­ca­tion Law was said to sup­port our rice farm­ers but now that it is im­ple­mented, it might have caused more harm than good.

Other agri­cul­tural sec­tors are also fac­ing their re­spec­tive chal­lenges that are af­fect­ing our farm­ers. For the ba­nana in­dus­try, gov­ern­ment ef­forts are not enough to curb the Panama dis­ease or other ex­ist­ing prob­lems like in­creas­ing in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion or high tar­iffs in some coun­tries. Co­pra prices have also dropped to around P15 per kilo­gram.

With so many chal­lenges the agri­cul­tural sec­tor is fac­ing, it is also greatly af­fect­ing the farm­ers.

The farm­ers de­serve all the help they can get. Aside from of­fer­ing fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to them, the gov­ern­ment might want to con­sider full ed­u­ca­tional schol­ar­ship for farm­ers and their chil­dren. The gov­ern­ment may also want to make tech­nolo­gies more ac­ces­si­ble to the farm­ers to help them im­prove their pro­duc­tiv­ity and in­come.

If noth­ing is done to help them, then our food se­cu­rity will be put in peril. -Ss­davao

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