By Chito Chavez
Militant farmers’ group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) on Monday insisted the government should provide an urgent cash assistance and agricultural production subsidies for farmers as the country faces the novel coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
KMP national chairperson Danilo Ramos said “assisting farmers is beneficial not just for millions of their direct family members, but also for the entire 100-million population of the country in need of food and other agricultural products. This reality is made doubly important and urgent in the face of a pandemic.”
The group demanded not less than P10,000 direct cash assistance for each affected farmer family.
“Farmers do not need any more loans, we need urgent cash assistance. It will offset losses in our livelihood which we have been incurring ever since the COVID-19 lockdown began. More than that, we need it to help us buy food and medical supplies necessary in defending against the COVID-19 virus,” Ramos explained.
Ramos asserted that farmers from various provinces around Metro Manila were already affected by the hampered movement of food along checkpoints, disabling or restraining them from selling their produce.
“We have to prepare for the long fight. The threat of COVID-19 will not disappear after the lockdown is lifted. Its economic effects in the global economy will also hit us. Imports from other countries might become less reliable as the pandemic drags on. We need to quickly improve our capacity to produce the food and agricultural products we require,” Ramos warned.
He noted that production subsidies must be assured in the form of irrigation and other agricultural infrastructure, seeds, and fertilizers and other inputs, among others.
Use P1-billion additional agri fund for production subsidies, not for marketing blitz
Ramos said Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar’s request for an additional P1-billion fund to ensure food production in the next months must go to actual production subsidies for farmers to significantly aid them at this crucial time.
“Farmers are in dire need of seed and input subsidies and massive production support at this time. For the DA to seek a P250-million fund for the promotion of urban agriculture in Metro Manila and P75-million for retail price monitoring reeks of skewed priorities. Dar must ensure that all public fund and budget for agriculture are being used for the benefit of farmers and not for his own technocratic whims,” Ramos said.
The farmers’ group also reiterated its demand for the National Food Authority (NFA) to increase its capacity to procure local palay from farmers especially this March and April harvest season and for the agency to preposition cheaper rice in net food importing provinces.