Food group seeks government support amid global woes

Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star
Food group seeks government support amid global woes
Marketgoers buy what they need at the Marikina Public Market in Marikina City (November 5, 2021).
Boy Santos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) is urging the government to provide support for the private sector to enable it to expand food production amid a coming global food catastrophe caused by the Russia-Ukraine war.

In a general membership meeting yesterday, PCAFI president Danilo Fausto said the Philippines faces food security threats, along with soaring food prices, because of its heavy food import dependence.

He said Russia, Ukraine, India, among others, have already stopped wheat exports while many other countries contemplate keeping their food production for their own security.

“We are now on our own. With the private sector providing 95 percent of the total investment, we need to further expand and increase our production to feed our people. But how on earth can we do this if our own government is preventing us from doing so,”Fausto said.

He said the government should not treat the agriculture sector as a charity sector of society, but as a good and profitable business proposition.

“Government should provide the right environment and incentives for the private sector to invest, expand their production, value chain and supply chain logistics, not kill them with competition from cheap and subsidized imported products,”Fausto said.

He said providing cheap food for the consumers and fighting inflation through imports is a short term solution.

“Producing our own food requirements, although a much longer process, will be more sustainable for our people. We appeal for a level playing field from the government. Doing otherwise, we will be shooting ourselves not in the foot, but in the head,” Fausto said.

PCAFI said that with the supply of imported feed wheat now limited, local corn production should be raised.It said corn sufficiency is currently at 57 percent.

“Feedwheat is an alternative to corn, which represents 60 percent of feed ingredients.Feed itself represents around 70 percent of the cost in growing chickens and pigs,”the group said.

It added that cheaper alternatives to feed inputs should be tapped as those developed by Filipino scientists from University of the Philippines Los Banos.

PCAFI said the DA should promote use of inorganic oil-based fertilizers, utilizing organic materials, resulting in equally high yield and efficient production of rice and other crops.

Fausto citedthe need to increase the allocation of the agriculture sector in the country’s national budget.

“We appeal that food production should not be sacrificed as the Department of Budget and Management undertakes hair-cuts for future budget allocation,”Fausto said.

He said livestock and poultry, contributing a third or 30 percent ofagricultural production should get a sizable budget from only three to four percent of the Department of Agriculture (DA)’s budget.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar expressed earlier his hope for the next administration to increase the DA’s budget next year for the better management of the sector amid a brewing food crisis.

“If next year’s budget is not doubled or tripled, and it will be at the same level as the budget we have today, we will always have the same problem that we have had before,”Dar said earlier.

Dar is seeking an increase in the DA’s budget to as much asP290 billion, or three times higher than its current budget, to significantly support the country’s food sovereignty goals.

Among the next administration’s prioritiesis to ensurethat the agriculture sector has a substantial budget for it to be able to manage the sector during times of global crises as well as natural disasters.

Darsaid the brewing food crisis would be caused by the disruption in the global food supply chain, the greatly reduced productivity of Ukraine and Russia,as well as reduced agricultural productivity in the rest of the world due to the unavailability and high cost of inputs.

“Increasing our budget is a must to remain afloat amid these challenges,” Dar said.



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