More comprehensive crop insurance pushed

Published August 20, 2020, 2:06 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

A group of agriculture experts told the Department of Agriculture (DA) to come up with a much comprehensive crop insurance for farmers and fishermen from not just to cover the financial losses of the members of the country’s poorest sub-sectors but also to pay for opportunity losses.

Former Agriculture Secretary Senen Bacani, who is now part of Secretary of Agriculture’s Group of Experts (SAGE), said crop insurance should not only cover financial loss but also opportunity loss to help farmers to survive.

 If possible, he said the DA can help Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) subsidize crop insurance premiums.

 PCIC is an attached agency of the DA whose mandate is to provide insurance protection to farmers against losses arising from natural calamities, plant diseases, and pest infestations of their palay and corn crops as well as other crops.  

 For this year, PCIC received an annual budget of P3.5 billion from the General Appropriations Act (GAA). 

To boost the budget of PCIC for this year, the DA has requested the Department of Budget Management (DBM) to allot additional P1 billion for crop insurance from the excess rice tariffs collected in 2019.  

 Agriculture Secretary William Dar said that there are now ongoing talks with the World Bank and the National Treasury for a “Reinvigorated Insurance for Agriculture” program. He did not provide further details.

Last month, advocacy group Rice Watch Action Network (R1) demanded the government to cover wet season crops with crop insurance as farmers now face higher health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 This, after the group received reports from Sorsogon and Leyte farmers lamenting the lack of insurance subsidy in these areas.

 This was validated by Nimfa Ferolino, Municipal Agriculturist in Irosin Sorsogon, who said “a lot of small farmers are now asking us if there is free insurance for this wet cropping season.”

 Such reports of limited coverage must be clarified by the DA, according to Hazel Tanchuling of R1.

 “It would be a pity to see these billions of investments wiped-out and unprotected from climate risks such as tropical cyclones,” Tanchuling said.

 Meanwhile, SAGE, a group of prominent luminaries in the field of agriculture, science, economics and agribusiness tasked to advise Dar and the DA management, also recommended the agency to clarify what farm consolidation means.

 SAGE Chairman Emil Javier said the DA should highlight that farm consolidation does not mean consolidating land titles and ownership, but more of a mutual agreement among farmers to till their contiguous lands to attain economies of scale.

 To recall, the Philippines is now moving towards farm consolidation and clustering in the agriculture sector, which will limit the government support being given individually to farmers and fishermen so they will be forced to cluster into groups or cooperatives.  

 This project, called Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation (F2C2) Program, should help the government attain economies of scale and enable more farmers, fishers, and agriculture entrepreneurs to produce and earn more from their toil.

 Through the F2C2 program, the government aims to channel assistance such as credit, modern production methods, farm machinery, post-harvest and program facilities, transport and logistics, packaging support, as well as information and communication technologies, to farm and fishery clusters.

 The DA, through its Agricultural Policy and Credit Council (ACPC), will also provide farm clusters credit financing.

 However, to avail of projects offered under F2C2, the DA has set a minimum clustered area of 100 hectares for palay, fruit trees, perennials, and fiber crops, while its 75 hectares for corn and other grains. It is 50 hectares for vegetables and high-value crops.