The Department of Agriculture (DA) should “save” farmers from the dwindling prices of vegetables and lack of buyers by purchasing their products instead and donating them to community pantries that have sprung up in various areas of the country.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Monday, April 19, gave the challenge as he noted reports of Luzon vegetable farmers who were forced to dispose their spoiled produce.
“May mga pictures na tinatapon na lang ang kamatis kasi walang bumibili. Bakit hindi na lang ito bilhin ng pamahalaan at ipamigay sa mga komunidad na nagtayo ng sarili nilang food banks (There are pictures showing that mounds of tomatoes were dumped because nobody would buy them. Why don’t the government buy it and give it communities who have set up their own food banks)?” Recto asked.
“Buy these, truck them to Manila and quietly give them to community pantries,” the senator proposed.
“You don’t have to be a genius to dispatch sweeper trucks and buy directly from vegetable farmers. You help both the farmers and the consumers,” he added.
Recto said this would be in line with the DA’s campaign against the wastage of agricultural products, such as rice.
“Kung sinasabi na huwag mag-aksaya ng butil ng bigas, bakit tone-toneladang mga gulay ang nabubulok? O kung kayang mag-angkat ng baboy mula Brazil, bakit hindi kayang ibaba ang gulay mula Benguet (If they are telling people not to waste a single grain of rice, why are we allowing tons of vegetables to rot? Or if we can import tons of pork from Brazil, why can’t the DA bring down the vegetables from Benguet to Manila)?” Recto said, alluding to the DA’s push to open up importation of pork in the country.
“But what is happening now is that the food-producing poor are helping the food-consuming poor. If they can do it, why can’t big-budgeted agencies do the same?” he pointed out.
Farmers from the Mountain Province in the Cordillera Administrative Region were reported citing the disruption of supply chain due to by COVID-19 lockdowns in Luzon.
Community pantries, especially in in depressed areas, would benefit from such government support, Recto said. Although he maintained it should be done “quietly and sans fanfare” since “food donations need not be trumpeted.”
“My suggestion is to give anonymously, because the best way to ruin a people’s initiative is for government to brusquely come in. That will be a Midas touch in reverse,” he said.
He said the DA could tap its P150-million budget for Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita for such effort. Funds from the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) P176.6-billion 2021 budget can also be used for food donations, he also noted.
With surveys finding self-rated hunger at a record-high of 30.7 percent, Recto said food banks have been the direct response of citizens to the growing number of “GNP” or what he calls the Gutom na Pilipino (Hungry Filipinos).