PH should fast-track consolidation of small farms

The Philippines should fast-track consolidation of small farms

The consolidation and clustering of our small farms averaging less than 2 hectares (ha) must be accelerated to achieve economies of scale. This is especially critical at a time of stiff global competition, climate change and increasing hunger.

Back in 2021, there was still no specific budget for this initiative called the Farm and Fisheries Clustering and Consolidation (F2C2). But in a media interview with then presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Dec. 6, 2021, he committed to the initiative by pledging a 
P185-million budget.


Farm and fisherfolk clustering and consolidation was one of 12 agriculture directions that emerged from an unprecedented unanimous agreement by five coalitions: Alyansa Agrikultura (AA), Federation of Free Farmers, Philippine Council of Agriculture and Fisheries, Inc., Coalition for Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines (CAMP), and Bayanihan sa Agrikultura.


The groups stated as a requirement for successful transformation: “To ensure more producers’ income and livelihood, the Department of Agriculture (DA) should lead the shift from monocropping to localized, diversified, sustainable production system and clustered cooperative community-based approaches to production, value adding and marketing.”


But while the DA budget was increased by 32 percent from P157 billion to P202 billion in 2024, the F2C2 budget was decreased by 14 percent to P145 million.

This was a big mistake. However, it can still be remedied through other funding sources.


So far, F2C2 has been performing well. From an average of 292 clusters for the prior two years, F2C2 has catalyzed 711 new empowered clusters (or 2.4 times). Today, there are 1,296 clusters with 484,396 farmers and fisherfolk covering an area of 779,596 ha.

They are found in rice (462), corn/cassava (304), high value crops (323), livelihood (110), fisheries (40), organic (26) and others (31). However, the number is still too small because it covers less than 5 percent of a potential area.

In Thailand, agriculture is handled by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Their emphasis on clustering and consolidation has produced results. Last year, Thailand agriculture experts reached $42.3 billion, six times our measly $7.1 billion.

But we are still on the right track. F2C2 is also learning from the best practices of our successful neighboring countries. One such collaboration is with the Taiwan Technical Mission (TTM). F2C2 entered into an agreement with TTM to implement a project with the Tabon San Jose Farmers Association in San Luis, Pampanga. Projects like this should be multiplied nationwide.


Other recommendations

Agriculture Fisheries Alliance (AFA) leaders have other suggestions.

CAMP president Eufemio Rasco says: “It should be clear that for diversification, horizontal and vertical integration should be part of the tool box for consolidation and clustering. We must use a commodity system approach rather than single commodity programs.”

From the farmers and fisherfolk component of AA, vice president and concurrent Pakisama spokesperson Rene Arcilla states: “We should simultaneously address our own severe nutrition and hunger challenges through programs like Harbest’s ‘Family Food Garden in Every Household,’ [which is] now present in 50 provinces but on an extremely limited scale.” (I have talked about this in my column last week.)

For this year, we must use additional resources from the DA banner programs and work for a much larger F2C2 outlay during the 2025 budget deliberations.

Only with clustering and consolidation—which I highlight was supported by President Marcos before he stepped into office—will we realize the true agriculture transformation we need.

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The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is [email protected]

TAGS: Agriculture, Commentary, Farms

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