Lose P4.5 million without trying

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

So many people believe that it is time for President Bongbong Marcos to resign the position of Secretary of Agriculture and appoint a full time secretary in order for the department to get moving. Contrary to logic and popular belief, we might need to keep the President at the Department of Agriculture because he has a magazine full of silver bullets to deal with all the monsters that have been secretly wreaking havoc in the beleaguered industry.

Rather than ask the President to resign, it would be best to bang our imaginary pots and pans to wake him up to be more pro-active on agriculture. Perhaps he can do to agriculture what presidents Macapagal–Aquino–Duterte did for the tourism industry, all of whom recognized its potential and supported its continuing development as an industry that creates jobs, rakes in billions of pesos in revenue and promotes the best in the Philippines and the Filipinos.

We need PBBM at the DA because only his “superpowers” as President can fast track policy directions and implementations and only he can resurrect the people at the department who have become operationally comatose after the traumatic effects caused by the SRA controversy last year. They have become deaf and mute resulting from a fear-triggered gag order, refusing to be proactive lest they be left to hang on an honest mistake or correct initiative.

On the other hand, there are, reportedly, some DA officials who have started to behave like unsupervised brats whose parents are away or absent to supervise. A couple of high-ranking officials were recently quoted as mocking and repeating the words of Senator Cynthia Villar when she castigated DA officials for not knowing their job.

While one official said that it was a mistake to engage or attempt to answer the senator who already had her mind made up about the DA, the other simply mocked and mimicked Villar and made a joke of her attacks on a DA official during a hearing. Rather than regret their poor performance at the Senate, such immature behavior on the part of high-ranking officials is just one reason why the department is not getting anywhere.

We all have heard of other problems and failures in the department as well as external “crimes” such as hoarding, smuggling and sectoral influence peddling that has turned Philippine agriculture into a “ball of confusion.” But there has long been a “Frankenstein” that has resurrected itself and is now directly creating costly difficulties at the local government level. Here is one of a coming series of events:

As a result of the superpowers vested or taken upon by local government officials because of the Local Government Autonomy law, we now have LGUs all the way down to the barangay level making rules, imposing fees and making decisions as they go. Five to ten years ago, the telcos had nightmares dealing with these Frankensteins because of the Special Use Permits for cell sites they required, and the extortion fees for signatures at the barangay and city halls all over the country that ranged from P50,000 to P300,000. That only stopped when the Court of Appeals and President Duterte put his foot down.

Now we have barangays imposing a “Barangay Certificate of Acceptance” that poultry contract growers have to pay before they have fresh batches of “day-old chicks” (often at P100,000 to P150,000 per batch) delivered to their farms. This is on top of the barangay clearance/permit to operate a farm big or small or other forms of “sanitary inspection” permits where LGUs charge a per head fee on poultry and livestock.

No one complained about it until recently when corrupt minions and officials realized they had the power to delay delivery, threaten disapproval and disrupt the cycle of operations that cost hundreds of thousands to millions of pesos. As such, they now leverage this to collect money for the barangay or for themselves. Unfortunately, there have reportedly been some incidents when petty officials would delay deliveries or release of the BAC because there will be an event in the barangay, or the signing official was out on official business.

People don’t realize that every scheduled delivery to a poultry farm is a fixed deal. It is programmed production based on the number of chicks required and the date of delivery based on when the farm has prepared their facility for the chicks. That date is technically immovable because it is when you hand over 150,000 feathered “babies.” If for any reason the delivery is not completed, is postponed or blocked, the chick factory has to find an emergency buyer and sell at a complete loss.

Hatcheries are not designed to keep or hold chicks in storage because they are not designed as such, which is why production and deliveries are time sensitive. If delivery cannot be made, they are forced to take the 150,000 chicks and destroy them as soon as possible because that is the humane thing to do rather than let them starve or die from stress or exhaustion.

According to the retailer in Lipa City, their day-old chick sells at P50 each. If you price a wholesale day-old chick at only P30 each, the chick factory loses P4,500,000 in a single day per batch of 150,000 chicks. The poultry farm loses money on their empty pens and their operations disrupted while the corrupt barangay officials sit in their office totally clueless. This petty on-the-ground corruption has now become a collective complaint among poultry farm owners as well as big agri companies that produce both day-old chicks and ready-to-lay pullets. This is just one of many LGU-triggered anti-agri and anti-farm actions driving producers out of the business and driving market prices up!

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Coming soon: The P1.2-million fire hydrant requirement for a poultry farm!


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