A lot to fix in agriculture
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - December 26, 2018 - 12:00am

From the responses I received to a column last week on our stunted agricultural sector, it seems that there really are a lot of things that need fixing.

For example, Franklin M. Panahon wrote to say that the Department of Agriculture has lost its agri technicians to LGUs under the Local Government Code… “In reality, DA top generals/directors are all desk-bound and are not in a position to effectively manage program implementation…

“DA agencies that did technology transfers thru sustained training and seminars for DA field technicians like the Bureau of Animal Industry, Bureau of Plant Industry, and the Agricultural Training Institute, among others, lost their productivity mandate and one wonders what their functions are now with the devolved set-up.”

Rolando Dy, professor and executive director of the Center for Food and Agri Business at the University of Asia and the Pacific, agrees there is this serious problem.

“The local government code was faulty from the start. Extension service was devolved to municipal LGUs.

“Another complication is the three year election cycle which led to changes in the bureaucracy at the local level. The national election cycle also causes major disruptions in agri bureaucracy…

“We have the highest poverty – 30 percent – some three times our Asean peers. Reducing it will take time given severe weaknesses in our agri institutions.

“We need to assess CARP. Is it land for the landless or jobs for the jobless? Productivity needs private investments. The countryside needs modern management very badly. Low productivity and poor agri diversification cascade into poor job creation in agri food manufacturing industries.”

Panahon observed: “Over the years, DA has become more of a regulatory body rather than a department that motivates agri-producer to produce more and increase farm productivity. Its primary mandate should be to increase farm income.”

Israel Camus, who I presume is a farmer, wrote about how neglected they have been through the years.

“I read your article on Philippine Star and just wanted to share a few realities with regards to rice farming.

“More than 20 years na po ako nag papalay at kahit isang beses hindi pa po nakakita ng taga NFA or nakarinig ng taga NFA na namimili ng palay gaya ng sabi nila nung hearing with Sen. Villar. Pawang kasinungalingan yung sinasabi nila na namimili sila ng local produce ng farmer. Tapos ilang bilyon ang pondo?

“Four years ago, until last harvest ng tag araw price of palay fresh harvest is at P22 to P23. Then came Piñol with his press release saying NFA is buying palay at P17 per kilo, plus P3.70 incentive. We farmers don’t really have any voice to refute that, we just talk among ourselves and our fellow farmers while watching the powers-that-be destroy something that is working.

“The announcement of Piñol is also a lie because he did not mention in his press release that NFA is buying only cleaned and dried palay at P17, plus P3.70 incentive tapos deliver pa ng farmer sa warehouse. P17 per kilo dry is price mga 10 years ago na… tapos ipag mamalaki niya?

“After threshing of palay, ilalagay sa sako tapos buhatin palabas either ng tao, kabayo or kalabaw- gastos po ng farmer at mas malayo sa kalsada mas malaki ang gastos. Tapos isakay sa truck or jeep or tricycle pauwi, gastos again, tapos bodega sa bahay.

“Bukas karga na naman sa jeep or truck dalhin sa bilaran para ibilad sa hapon… transpo ulit at pag hindi natuyo or inabot ng ulan bukas bilad ulit until matuyo. Pag natuyo hahakutin ni Farmer sa NFA buying station para bilhin or bayaran ng P17 plus P3.70 incentive. Yan po yung gusto ng NFA cleaned and dried delivered pa.

“Bago po mag harvest ng palay gumagala na mga ahente ng trader at nakikipag usap na sa mga mag papa-ani ng palay na farmer. Binibili po nila fresh produce, meaning after threshing of palay pagkalagay sa sako at paglabas sa kalsada, tapos na po ang gastos at hirap ni farmer at isasakay na po sa truck ng trader.

“Bayaran na ng trader at P22 to P23 per kilo (before Piñol’s press release). So hindi na naghakot palabas/ hauling  pauwi, hauling to bilaran, hindi na nagpatuyo, hindi na nag hauling ulit pauwi, at hindi na nag hauling papunta sa NFA. Isipin niyo po laking gastos na nagpatung-patong para bayaran ang palay na mas mura sa P17, plus P3.70 incentive?

“Kung seryoso talaga itong NFA sa pagbili ng palay bilhin po nila ng fresh harvest pick up sa bukid gaya ng mga trader at P22 to P23, huwag P17.

“Last na po ito sir, dahil wala kakayanan ang mga 98 percent ng mga farmer na mag dry ng palay at mag bodega, the government should build or create a lot of these and scatter them in rice producing areas.

“Pag may magandang bodega at tuyo na ang palay ni farmer hindi na po kami mag benta ng fresh produce na palay, bigas na po ibenta namin at sigurado walang hoarding na magaganap – di nga po namin alam yang hoarding na yan naririnig lang namin sa balita.”

The horrible thing is that the agriculture secretary thinks the NFA is key to keeping price of rice to consumers low. He is against the new measure that will allow free market forces to weigh in.

Indeed, San Miguel Corp. is just waiting for the rice tarrification bill to be signed into law by the President and the implementing rules released. Once that happens, they will import not rice, but palay for processing and storage in San Miguel facilities.

Ramon Ang promises to give consumers reasonably priced rice. Buying palay from local farmers will also be considered.

Hopefully the new year brings better prospects for our agri sector with the more active participation of private business in its development.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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