Solve hunger by boosting local agri production, Poe tells DA

Published July 16, 2021, 5:35 PM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Grace Poe prodded on Friday, July 16, the government to ramp up local agriculture production to alleviate the increasing hunger among Filipinos, as reported by the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.

(Keith Bacongco/ File photo/ MANILA BULLETIN)

“Our people are hungry. There’s something disconcerting about the reality that this is happening in an agricultural country,” Poe said in a statement.

The SWS released on Monday, July 12, the result of its poll showing that about 4.2 million families have experienced hunger in the last three months.

The hunger rate rose from by 0.8 percentage points from the 16 percent or an estimated four million hungry families recorded in November last year, and double the December, 2019 rate of 8.8 percent or 2.1 million families.

Poe said the Department of Agriculture (DA) must “aim for a dynamic, high-growth [agriculture] sector” to address the problem, stressing as it was allotted billions of pesos every year for agriculture-related programs.

“The leadership in the department is crucial. When the DA is on the opposite side of local farmers and producers, challenges in the country’s agriculture will only get worse and so will the problem of hunger,” said the senator.

An increased spending in agriculture, she added, can boost yield and sustainable growth for the sector. She, however, noted that that spending should “be guarded to ensure that funds are utilized efficiently.”

Poe cited data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showing that the agriculture sector has been contracting for two consecutive quarters, with production decreasing by 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020 and falling again by 3.3 percent in the first quarter of 2021.

She further said that unemployment exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic “has made it more difficult for many families to put food on the table.”

The PSA reported that 3.73 million had no jobs as of May.

“There’s no room for complacency while many of our people sleep on an empty stomach,” Poe told the DA.

Senators have previously assailed the DA for supposedly favoring agricultural imports, with some saying importation should be the agency’s last resort.