Policy without programs results in rhetoric without reality. Where the Department of Agriculture has supported its policy with concrete programs, it has done an admirable job. But there is always room for improvement.
It is their desire to support Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and the DA that motivated agricultural leaders to meet on Jan. 28 to identify programs that would support the DA policy on food security and increased farmer and fisherfolk incomes.
The leaders mostly came from Alyansa Agrikultura (AA) and Agri-Fisheries 2025 (AF2025). The AA is composed of 42 farmer-fisherfolk organizations that represent all agricultural sectors. The AF2025 is a tripartite group composed of the executive, legislative and private sectors tasked to formulate an agricultural development vision for 2025 with corresponding programs. The meeting was facilitated by the Rice Watch Network and Oxfam.
Six areas were reviewed: Rice, poultry and livestock, fisheries, commercial crops, fruits and vegetables and cross-cutting issues. Examples of the programs recommended here come from two of these areas.
The DA has a policy of rice self-sufficiency. This is supported by a good program that has shown concrete results.
Under Alcala, palay production increased by 6 percent in 2011 and 8 percent in 2012. The 2011 level of 16.7 million metric tons was, however, just the same as the 2009 level. Thus, the growth rate from 2009 to 2012 averaged only 2 percent a year because of a drop in production in 2010. To achieve rice self-sufficiency this year, the increase in rice yield must be 11 percent to reach the 20 million tons needed for self-sufficiency.
An action program needed to support the rice self-sufficiency policy is to institute private sector monitoring for the optimal use of the irrigation budget. Though this was approved two years ago, retired personnel of the National Irrigation Administration were appointed to represent the private sector. We argued that private sector representatives should be totally independent of NIA. This was approved in July 2012, but has not been implemented.
We must do this immediately. A December 2011 COA report stated that there were unsatisfactory findings regarding P80.4 billion in finished irrigation projects and another P61.5 billion in ongoing projects. A private sector monitoring program for irrigation projects is needed to attain the 11-percent palay production increase that is required to support the rice self-sufficiency policy.
In 2012, the poultry and livestock sectors grew by 4.5 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively. What makes matters worse is that 20 percent of the small backyard hog raisers lost their livelihood in the last two years primarily due to smuggling.
The action needed is to formulate sub-sector roadmaps with focused and strategic programs. These roadmaps should include not only a defensive component (e.g. an anti-smuggling program that is sorely lacking today), but also an aggressive strategy for sub-sector growth.
The last poultry and livestock master plans were done in 2002. Given the fact that the Asean Free Trade Area (Afta) has a no-tariff regime in 2015, it is imperative that these roadmaps be done immediately. It is the absence of such a roadmap that allowed the misguided granting of incentives to Charoen Pokphand Foods Philippines (CPFP) that has resulted in an uneven playing field, which threatens the survival of these sectors. In this case, guidelines should be changed in accordance with well-crafted roadmaps so that events like this do not happen again.
This year is critical for agriculture. We have to prepare now for the 2015 Afta zero-tariff regime. Though the current policy is self-sufficiency and survival during this free-trade environment, there is a disturbing lack of creative and strategic programs to prepare us for this. These programs have to be embodied in sub-sector roadmaps that should be formulated as soon as possible.
Alcala has admirably transformed the 0-percent agricultural growth rate he inherited in 2009 and 2010 into a 2-percent and 3-percent growth rate in 2011 and 2012. However, this is still below the target growth rate of 4.3 to 5.3 percent. In the last 10 years, these growth rates were achieved only twice in 2004 and 2007, when the DA’s budget was only P14 billion and P19 billion, respectively.
For 2013, DA and its attached corporations will have a much larger budget of P73 billion. It is imperative that this budget be used for programs in strategic roadmaps that will support our policy of food security and increased farmer and fisherfolk incomes. Only then can our rhetoric of agricultural development become a reality.
(The author is chair of Agriwatch, former Secretary for Presidential Flagship Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary for Agriculture, Trade and Industry. For inquiries and suggestions, e-mail [email protected] or telefax (02) 8522112).