What Marcos Jr. can do to address food crisis
To address our looming agriculture and food crisis, strategic agriculture measures must be implemented immediately. No one other than the President, who is also acting as agriculture secretary, can do this speedily and effectively.
In a June 27 letter, the three core coalitions of AgriFisheries Alliance (AFA) each submitted strategic agriculture measures to President Marcos. The three groups are Alyansa Agrikultura (AA), representing farmers and fisherfolk; Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI), representing agribusiness; and Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP), representing science and academe.
These measures ironed out the 12 recommendations (sometimes called the 12 agriculture commandments) agreed upon in principle by Mr. Marcos in a Dec. 6, 2021, interview.
AA proposed, among others, a comprehensive hybrid seed and fertilizer subsidy that can increase the current average palay yield of 4 tons per hectare to 6 to 10 tons.
CAMP, meanwhile, emphasized the need for governors and mayors to take the lead in agriculture. Local government units (LGUs) should also harness unutilized extension workers nationwide through a Provincial Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System.
For PCAFI, we identify here in more detail two innovative game-changing approaches.
The first addresses our current severe lack of funds. How can we move if we have no money? Here are PCAFI suggestions: Securitize future budgetary allocations, such as from the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development & Mechanization, or Philmech, and Philippine Rice Research Institute, or Philrice. Immediately disburse the coco levy fund. Use the tobacco excise tax specifically for these measures in the Ilocos region. Allocate at least 10 percent of the P260-billion additional local government funds that came as a result of the Mandanas-Garcia ruling. Have the Philippine Guarantee Corp. provide credit guarantees to farmers so they can get credit from banks. Use warehouse receipts and production contracts as collateral for bank loans.
The second approach puts into operation the stakeholders’ hope to emphasize local production rather than importation.
Local production, however, should be at the barangay level. Mini agro-industrial centers (MAIC) must be immediately established in 4,000 barangays with an average budget of P5 million each.
The following have been assessed by experts:
• For rice-producing areas (Central Luzon, Cagayan Valley, Western Visayas and Ilocos Region): Palay driers, mobile rice mills and warehouse facilities.
• For corn-producing areas (Cagayan Valley, Northern Mindanao, Soccsksargen and BARMM): Corn driers, warehouse facilities or silos.
• For vegetable-producing areas: cold storage facilities, packaging and vacuum pack machines.
• For fisheries villages: Blast freezers, cold storage facilities, small ice plants, smoked oven and vacuum packing machines.
In addition, the value chain and community empowerment will be strengthened by:
• Providing each MAIC with delivery and refrigerated trucks supported by Kadiwa Centers.
• Linking each MAIC directly to retailers, or entering into forward production contracts with agribusiness corporations, retailers and food processors.
MAICs will be owned, managed and operated primarily by associations/cooperatives, or in joint venture with LGUs or agribusiness companies, with oversight and guidance from the Department of Agriculture (DA).
The strategic measures identified here should be supplemented by additional suggestions from the public. Those wishing to provide recommendations can email [email protected] These will then be submitted to the appropriate agencies under Mr. Marcos’ supervision.
“It takes a village to raise a child,” the adage goes. It also takes our people as a united nation to implement the strategic agriculture measures needed to address and overcome our looming agricultural and food crisis.
The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is [email protected]
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