The downward trend of Philippine Agriculture
Undoubtedly, the state of our agricultural economy is spiraling downward. A case in point is the rice industry where the Philippines is the 8th largest rice producer accounting for 2.49 per cent of global rice output. However, the Philippines is also the 4th rice importer of the world. From 2010-2014, domestic prices were 50 per cent higher than prices in Thailand and Vietnam.
Department of Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala must not deceive us since from time immemorial the Philippines has never attained self-sufficiency in rice. Eighty per cent of our population depends on it as staple food. Rice comprises 20 per cent of the consumption expenditures of the poor. Since rice adequacy is equated with political stability the government imported two (2) million metric tons in 2014 after super typhoon Yolanda hit the Visayas region in November 8, 2013.
Dr. Eliseo Ponce, Exec. Dir. of the Bureau of Agriculture Research said that in the Philippines, food is expensive. We are most costly among Asean countries. The reason is lack of framework in policy building, out dated implementation of guidelines, inadequate infra and abusive middlemen. He believes the low agricultural output is caused by: a) bad weather conditions, b) high production cost and low productivity, and c) limitation in land resources.
Senate Pres. Franklin Drilon considers significant contribution of agriculture - 11 percent to GDP and that one-third (1/3) of total labor force is in farming. However, he bewails that two-thirds (2/3) of the poorest sector in the country belongs to agriculture. Indeed, the performance is sluggish-2.6 per cent in 2011 and 2.8 per cent in 2012 where optimum target was 4.3 to 5.3 per cent per year.
The decline in agricultural productivity and income of farmers can be traced to twin evils namely: agrarian reform that is not properly funded and devolution of agriculture to LGU’s where local executives in most cases pay only lip service to agricultural development. For 24 years, agricultural growth stunted, food production program shriveled and many dedicated farmers gave up their chosen occupation.
Today, the average age of farmers is 57 years, Grade IV, sickly and mired in poverty. The youngsters do not consider farming as profitable occupation. Instead, they want to be in Business Process Outsourcing (Call Center Agent) OFW or HRM. We cannot blame our youth. The government’s penchant to import food in large quantities resulted to low farm-gate prices. Remember NFA’s selling price is P17.00 per kilogram, while the actual cost of production is double the above retail price.
Cognizant of the problems faced by farmers and investors, the DA and World Bank embarked on a strategy called Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP) that focused on Commodity Value Chain or tie-up to improve market linkages. This is the basis for granting investment grade in rural areas. The total project cost for PRDP is P27.5 billion starting in 2014 and ending in 2019.
The value chain analysis as defined by FAO is a full range of activities to bring product or services to markets. Support strategies are: a) Farm to market roads, b) production of raw materials for high value processing, c) Post harvest facilities, and, d) Communal irrigation system.
Cyrel de Mesa, National Program Director, PRDP lists pilot priority projects approve for funding are for Mindanao: Region 9-Rubber, Region 10-Coconut, Region 11-Cacao, Region 12-Cassava, Region 13-Abaca, ARMM-Oil palm, Cavendish bananas, Luzon: CAR-Coffee, Region 1-Mango, Region 2-Dairy, Region 3-Ampalaya, Region 4-A-Dairy cattle, Region 4-B Calamansi, Region 5-Geonets (geotextiles). Apparently single product development is done to simplify and achieve economies of scale.
The program aims to create an inclusive value oriented and climate resilient agri-fisheries sector. The coverage is 80 provinces in 16 regions.
The problem is to get the specialist to serve as manpower such as Business Development Specialist, Enterprise Development and Marketing Specialists and Business Development Officers. The jobs will be to undertake capacity building among participating LGU’s and develop business plans for commodities placed under the program. They will also provide technical support to the DA Regional Staff.
PRDP builds on innovations introduced by MRDP or Mindanao Rural Development Program that started 16 years ago. This includes participatory approach by stakeholders, identifying root causes of the problem, prioritizing projects, submission of Feasibility study, Funding, Implementation of project and evaluation and follow-up. A model MRDP project is the Rubber Processing Plant in Agusan del Sur that cost P31.6 million. The average rubber production is 3.1 metric tons cup lumps per hectare but the facility can accommodate 1, 500 hectares of rubber plantation.
It’s almost a year since PRDP was launched yet nothing is done by authorities in Western Visayas. Again, is this due to devolution? Is it due to the absence of necessary personnel and specialists? We in Aklan are hoping for positive development. /MP