DSWD urged to buy directly from farmers

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - September 27, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Francis Pangilinan is calling on the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to come up with a program for direct purchases of agricultural products from farmers.

Pangilinan said this was a win-win strategy considering that the DSWD would be able to support the marginalized sector of food producers and be able to serve other marginalized sectors in its feeding programs.

He said the reported underpricing and dumping of vegetable harvests from Benguet and other parts of the country would not happen, or at least reduced, if national government agencies like DSWD serve as the assured market of farmers in various food-related programs.

For one, cabbage from La Trinidad now sells below its production cost, forcing farmers to sell at a losing price or to donate their produce.

“If the DSWD will have a system like this, farmers and fishers will have a stable income and the recipients will have healthier food options,” Pangilinan said.

Of DSWD’s proposed P169.3-billion budget for 2021, Pangilinan pointed to specific items it could  use to purchase directly from accredited farmers and fisherfolk organizations.

These are supplemental feeding programs worth P3.7 billion, disaster response (P2 billion) and protective services (P12 billion).

The Department of Agriculture reported that local government units purchased over P6 billion worth of agriculture products directly from farmers in the past four months.

“In almost all the instances, at least from the reports that are coming in, LGUs buy at a higher price compared to the middlemen which means farmers are earning more,” he said.

The Bayanihan to Recover as One Act allows national and local government agencies to directly purchase agricultural and fishery products from farmers and fisherfolk and agriculture cooperatives as a form of direct assistance.

The Government Procurement Policy Board in April also released a memorandum circular that facilitates this procurement and relaxes the requirements for farmers to be recognized as part of the program.

Over 400 LGUs purchased directly from 518 farmers and 245 farmers cooperatives and associations as of July.

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