Agriculture stakeholders are asking for leadership change at DA

Published June 10, 2021, 5:03 PM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Groups of food producers are asking for a leadership change at the Department of Agriculture (DA), which they think is one of the solutions for the output and financial crisis they are currently experiencing.

“We need a new government,” said United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA) President Bong Inciong during a forum organized by Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF) and National Movement for Food Sovereignty (NMFS).

Inciong is just one of the resource speakers during the forum who expressed dismay at how the government is handling the COVID-19 crisis and shortfall in the supply of certain commodities.

Their main concern is the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) seemingly pro-importation stance, following the latter’s recent proposals to allow the entry of more imported pork into the country amid the continuous spread of African Swine Fever (ASF), which is pushing meat prices higher Then there is also the recommendation to boost rice importation through the issuance of Executive Order (EO) 135, which reduces the tariffs on rice imports from non-ASEAN countries.

These moves, according to groups of food producers, will result in further production and financial crisis on the part of farmers and raisers.

Arze Glipo, executive director of IRDF, also fears that the country’s agricultural output will continue to suffer moving forward because of these policies, which will make the Philippines more food insecure. This, because instead of helping local producers become more resilient, they are being discouraged to produce more.

During the first quarter of the year, the Philippine agriculture sector fell by 3.3 percent from the decline of only 1.7 percent during the same period last year, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.

This is mainly due to lower outputs in poultry and livestock, while the country’s rice production actually grew during the period.

“With climate change impacts, like drying up of the Mekong River, that could be dangerous to our food security if we only rely on food importation,” Glipo said.

For his part, Agriculture economist Pablito Malabanan Villegas also said during the forum that “producers should unite in order to stop these people [from the government] from causing more harm to the agriculture sector”. Inciong then said that he is no longer hopeful that Agriculture Secretary William Dar could still bring change to the situation.

“I have nothing personal against Secretary Dar but he is really the most submissive Secretary of Agriculture vis a vis our economic managers,” Dar said.

“When you compare him to Piñol, Alcala, Yap, Pangilinan, Escudero, Montemayor, this is the first time that all sectors are suffering within a single administration. These sectors are hogs, rice, chicken,” he added.

Inciong said that it’s the economists’ fault when they said in 1995 that the agriculture sector will improve if the country will liberalize.