Farmer entrepreneurship is possible and doable but the transition will be gradual, according to Vice President Leni Robredo.
Robredo has been assisting Bicolano farmers sell directly to supermarkets and restaurants in the region through her “Umasenso sa Kabuhayan” program.
During the forum “Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), Robredo said there are already nine municipalities in Bicol with farming communities that are directly selling to hotels, restaurants, groceries, and supermarkets.
“Farmers’ transition from subsistence farming [into entrepreneurship] is gradual. But if we can show them the benefits, it is possible,” said Robredo.
This program with Bicol farmers started in 2018 when the Office of the Vice President (OVP) conducted a simultaneous survey. The survey asked commercial establishments on the top 10 agricultural goods they need and the top 10 crops that farmers grow.
“We told the farmers, ‘grow calamansi, and we will provide you with the financial grants and the seedlings,’” said Robredo. “We found it hard at first. But when daring farmers started becoming successful, the other farmers followed. Now we already have a lot of contracts. You just need to be focused on the program.”
With the financial grant from the government along with their higher income, farmers were eventually able to buy greenhouses for their produce. They were also able to put up their drip irrigation facilities for efficient garden watering.
PCAFI held the forum to orient presidential aspirants on the need of Filipino farmers and the fact that agriculture has been neglected for many years, according to PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto.
Fausto further said that among the farm sector’s needs now is an increased budget of at least 10 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). This, since agriculture also contributes 10 percent to GDP and even up to 35 percent when agriculture processing industries are included.
Farmers need to be aided to become businessmen as “agriculture should not be treated as a charity work but as a business,” Fausto said.
Recommendations on agriculture were also presented to Robredo during the forum by Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Leonardo Montemayor, Alyansa Agrikultura Convenor Ernie Ordonez, and Rice Watch Executive Director Hazel Tanchuling.