Farmers’ group slam DA’s ‘new normal in agriculture’

Published May 13, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Chito Chavez

A farmers’ group protested on Wednesday (May 13) against the “new normal in agriculture” proposed by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Inter-Agency Task Force to Eliminate Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) Task Group on Food Security.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Facebook / MANILA BULLETIN)
Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas

“It is nothing but a reiteration of old and failed institutionalized market-driven and neoliberal policies in agriculture, specifically importation, liberalization, and unfettered influx of foreign investments,” said the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP).

“These very same policies led to the current underdeveloped state of Philippine agriculture. The same track of neoliberal policies will further plunge farmers into hunger and poverty of epic proportions,” it added.

KMP said that in crafting the “new normal in agriculture” and the “food security development framework,” the DA allegedly ignored the grim realities of the domestic agriculture sector being weakened due to long-time government neglect.

It added that the Filipino farmers are enduring worsening landlessness, while unemployment in agriculture is at record-highs with farmers becoming even more bankrupt due to the Rice Liberalization Law or Republic Act No. 11203.

“In fact, farmers lost P85 billion in the first full year of the law. The overall socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 lockdown will further weigh down the already slumped agriculture and food producers,” the KMP said.

KMP chairperson emeritus and Anakpawis Partylist president Rafael Mariano said local agriculture, devastated by decades of liberalization and pushed to the brink of demise by the rice liberalization policy, cannot jumpstart on the same framework.

“While DA is brandishing its Plant, Plant, Plant or the Ahon Lahat Pagkain Sapat (ALPAS-COVID) program, local agriculture production posted a 1.2 percent decline for the first quarter of 2020, with crops and fisheries most affected by the contraction.

“Some 2.5 million people in farming and fisheries were dislocated. Local agri and fisheries production in the past two months were disrupted by the lockdowns, resulting in the worsened socio-economic situation of farmers and fishers. Income losses were also incurred due to unsold or spoiled produce including rice, corn, livestock, poultry, and fishery,” Mariano argued.

KMP insisted that the above-mentioned problems cannot be solved by DA’s proposed programs.

“There must be drastic and radical changes in local agriculture, starting from the implementation of genuine land reform and free land distribution,” Mariano said.

The DA said the Food Security Development Framework for the proposed “new normal in agriculture” will focus on food production and availability, accessibility and affordability, price stability, and food safety.

It added that under the new normal, it will implement farm consolidation, modernization, industrialization, export promotion, and infrastructure development in agriculture.