Agri groups to boycott gov’t’s National Food Security Summit

Published May 12, 2021, 12:04 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Several groups have decided to boycott the government’s upcoming National Food Security Summit, which they believe will not be able to address the problems currently hounding the agriculture sector.

At the same time, these groups are questioning the line-up of resource speakers in the summit, who they said are mostly economists.

To be specific, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is set to stage a National Food Security Summit on May 18 to 19, 2021 which aims to discuss immediate concerns affecting the agricultural sector and inform stakeholders on DA’s plans moving forward.

On Wednesday, Leonardo Montemayor of Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) questioned the fact that majority of the resource speakers in the summit are free trade economists.

“This only goes to show that importation is a priority in order for us to achieve food security,” Montemayor said during virtual Wednesday Roundtable @ Lido.

“The thing is the country is capable to produce food but there is a lack of support and subsidy for food producers,” he added.

Aside from officials of the DA and local government units (LGU), some of the people scheduled to speak in the National Food Summit are economists Ramon Clarete, Cielito Habito, and Rolando Dy.

Other speakers would be Agriculture Secretary William Dar, Food and Agriculture Organization Director-General Qu Dongyu, Senator Cynthia Villar, Congressman Mark Enverga, Monetary Board member Bruce Tolentino, AGREA Philippines President Cherrie Atilano, Tugon Kabuhayan Co-convenor Norberto Chingcuanco, among others.

For his part, DA Assistant Secretary for Strategic Communications Noel Reyes, who was also at the same briefing as Montemayor, said the government agency always makes sure that everyone is consulted and listened to.

“There are initiatives to address the problems of the agriculture sector,” Reyes said. “The purpose of the food summit is to let everyone know where we are now and where we are going”.

Right now, the biggest problem being addressed in the agriculture sector is the prevalence of African Swine Fever (ASF), which has already resulted in billions of losses in the livestock sector.

And due to the decline in the overall output of livestock and poultry, the country’s farm output also fell by 3.3 percent in the first three months of 2021.

Other several groups claimed that for the past years, DA “implemented lopsided policies and programs which only burdened local industries, farmers, and even consumers.”

As a response, these groups, which include National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc. (NFHFI) and Philippine Network of Food Security Programmes, Inc. (PNFSP), announced that they are boycotting the DA’s National Food Security Summit and instead promoted a people-led National People’s Food System Summit.

Aside from FFF, NFHFI and PNFSP, joining the boycott are Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), United Broiler Raisers’ Association (UBRA), Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG), Climate Change Network for Community Based Initiatives (CCNCI), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PANAP), Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya(SIBAT), Bantay-Bigas, among others.

Together, these groups jointly criticized DA’s food security approaches, which they said are grounded on import-dependence, trade liberalization, and deprivation of economic relief to farmers in the middle of the pandemic.