The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. urged the government to rethink the current support structure on crops and other agricultural commodities as well as the import policies on food. In a virtual press briefing held Thursday, PCAFI president Danny Fausto said the government failed to respond to the needs of farmers since its attention focuses on only 4 major crops – rice, corn, coconut and banana. “We urge the government take a second look at the country’s livestock and poultry subsector and not to limit its focus on four major cash crops. The answer may not be in importation but an improvement on fiscal as well as non-fiscal support to industries in that needing urgent attention,” he said. PCAFI said the government response to issues besetting agriculture and farmers had been always sort of knee-jerk reaction “as in the case of pork importation where a recommendation was submitted without prior study.”
“We owe it to the sacrifices of our hog farmers to have in place a more realistic price control on imported meat, particularly pork,” it added. Over the last three years, livestock and poultry lost almost 4 percent of its share in the total agriculture production, from more than 31 percent in 2018 to 27.5 percent during the first quarter of 2021, or around ₱72 billion in value of production. In 2020, the combined contribution of hog and chicken represented ₱424.6 billion or 2.5 percent of the Philippine total GDP, hog with ₱256.27 billion and chicken with ₱168.35 billion respectively. PCAFI highlighted the great disparity of support given to rice which was allotted P35.27 billion or more than half of the DA’s budget of ₱66.4 billion for 2021.
On the other hand, livestock and poultry which contributes 28 to 31 percent of the total agriculture production, got ₱3.21 billion or 3.68 percent of the total DA budget.
“If we are to include the budget for irrigation which is ₱31 billion, the rice program is getting ₱65 billion from the national budget. In 2020, rice contributed ₱390.2 Billion compared to the livestock and poultry which contributed ₱424.6 Billion to total agriculture production,” Fausto said. PCAFI reiterated its recommendations that include agriculture to get a fair and balanced share from the national budget of at least 10 percent to support programs thst uphold food security and decrease reliance on food imports. According to national scientist and former UP System president Emil Javier, the country’s food imports of $5.9 billion have outran exports valued at $5.1 billion by 10.1 percent.
Javier who is the current president of the Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines, said the sector can do better with increasing number of progressive farmers that employ modern means of production. Another recommendation by PCAFI calls for the allocation of at least 10 percent of the proposed increase in internal revenue allotment (IRA) to local government units (LGUs) that should go to food security programs and for the government to revisit the Cabotage Law to open interisland shipping to more players to bring down the cost of moving goods from one island to another. “Many of our members are saying that it is easier and cheaper to export to Japan, Singapore China and to other countries than to bring goods to Luzon,” Fausto said, adding that the proposal will partly solve problems on logistics. The agriculture sector employs 18.5 million farm and fisheries workers or about 24.6 percent of the labor force. Source: Group seeks policy review on crops, food importation – Manila Standard