Farmers are demanding for a production subsidy of at least P15,000 that will come from the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) proposed 2022 budget.
“While we want a higher budget for agriculture, we are not keen on the policy and fiscal directions of the Department of Agriculture and Secretary William Dar. The perfect storm in agriculture is not only due to the African Swine Flu, climatic events, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Decades of neoliberal policies have only worsened the state of agriculture and Filipino farmers,” Kilusang Magububukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said in a statement.
Furthermore, KMP said DA must refocus its fiscal priorities to solid support and subsidies for farmers, pointing out how the social amelioration program (SAP) the agency distributed last year only amounted to only P6.7 billion benefiting only a total of 1.4 million farmers.
For next year, there is no fund for ayuda or cash aid for farmers under the DA’s proposed budget, which is pegged at only around P91 billion, way lower than the P231.7 billion the agency was hoping to get.
“Like in previous years, DA is too focused on import liberalization and investments in agriculture that will primarily benefit local and foreign interests. DA’s food security framework is one that dismisses the interests of the country’s food security frontliners – farmers and fishers, and food consumers in general,” said KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos.
“Filipinos are suffering from hunger. We need to strengthen the local production of food. But how can we do that if farmers will not receive any support,” he added.
KMP said the focus of DA’s programs and projects under Agriculture Secretary William Dar remains the same, which is market and business-driven and profit-oriented programs.
On Thursday, Dar said that aside from the country’s main staples like rice, the DA will also focus more on high value commodities. With a record first semester yield of 8.8 million metric tons (MT) this year, the country expects to harvest an all-time high of 20.4 million MT of rice, topping last year's bumper crop of 19.4 million MT.
"We want to replicate what we did in rice with the rest of the agri-fishery sector, particularly in emerging commodities where we have comparative advantage," said Dar.
"We therefore seek sustained investments in rice, and increasing budgetary support for corn, high value crops, livestock, poultry and fisheries," he added.
Likewise, he said that the DA wants to multiply the export potentials of Philippine mangoes, coconuts, pineapple, sugarcane, and milkfish.
“We have made a name on the world stage through these exports, and we all know it takes deep resources to uphold world class stature," said Dar.
"We infused research for development, a previously ignored area, with heavy funding to develop value-added products for export markets, particularly coconut and banana," he added.
In terms of investments in agriculture, the DA chief wishes the Philippines to be at par with its ASEAN neighbors, as several of them allot a big share as a percentage of their national budget, underscoring that "their respective agriculture sectors became their springboard for industrialization."
For instance, he said Vietnam devotes 6.5 percent of its national budget to agri-fishery sector, while Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia have invested 3.4, 3.6, and 2.3 percent, respectively.
In comparison, "we in the Philippines only allot 1.6 percent of our national budget to the agriculture sector. Hence, we have a lot of catching up to do,” he further said.