PH agriculture needs greater consumer support

Published March 28, 2019, 12:48 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat


e-cartoon-mar-28-2019The  Philippine Coconut Authority  (PCA) has  urged various national agencies and local government  units to serve  buko  juice in their special events and seminars  instead of soft drinks to help the country’s coconut farmers  who have been suffering because of falling copra  prices around  the world.

Speaking at the Summer Buko Fest last week at the PCA Regional Office in Palo, Leyte, PCA Eastern  Visayas Manager Jeffrey  delos  Reyes said  3.5 million people  in the region are dependent  on  the coconut  industry. Since January last year,  he said, the price  of copra  has shrunk by 60 percent—from P38 to P12 per kilo.

Officials are now exploring other opportunities for the coconut industry other than copra. “If one half of our  population  would  drink buko juice every day, it will be a big help to our farmers,” the PCA official said. “We are creating opportunities to  augment  their income and not be copra-dependent.”

The coconut industry  is part  of Philippine agriculture, all  of which is facing major problems today.  In 2018,  agriculture grew by only 0.9 percent and  contributed only 0.1 percentage points to the overall Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 6.2 percent for the entire year, according to then Budget Secretary Benjamin  Diokno.

The rice industry, in particular, has been down, contributing to the sharp rise in the inflation rate last year. Filipino  farmers  have not been able to produce enough rice for local consumption,  so that the government  had  to  import  hundreds of  thousands of tons of rice from Vietnam and Thailand.

The  immediate  government solution has been the Rice Tariffication  Law, allowing unlimited importation  of  rice after payment of a 35 percent  tariff, where before, importations had required  special permits from the National  Food Authority. There should now be sufficient   rice for our consumers,  but  it is imported rice. Our farmers  are still unable to produce the rice we need in  sufficient quantities and at  costs our people can afford.

Last February, Secretary  Diokno  said  the  Duterte administration is prioritizing  the agriculture sector this year, with the allocation of greater resources  and  credit assistance   to farmers in production and  marketing.

 The Philippine Coconut  Authority’s  recent  appeal  for public support  is in line with this overall effort to help Philippine agriculture. Filipinos should be able to buy and consume more Philippine rice, even if it costs a little more than the cheap imported kind. Similarly, Filipinos should be able to buy  and  consume more Philippine coconut products, such as buko  juice, as the PCA officials are now pushing  with the  campaign they launched  at the Summer Buko Fest last week.

The  government  is  moving strongly to help Philippine agriculture. It will achieve  greater success if Filipino consumers  give their support.