Declining profitability of agriculture
Our farmers and fisher-folk should be helped to earn more through government interventions
Thank you, for P8.8 billion, which effectively boosted the agriculture sector’s budget this year by 11 percent from last year’s P80 billion allocation but money alone, as most of us know very well, is not enough to stop the sector’s continuing slide.
The most important problem stemming from a weakened agricultural sector is the inability of the country to sustain its continued growth in the medium term. Once again, we may find ourselves unable to maintain the “good grades” that we’ve gotten the past decade.
With the continued growth in the country’s population, it’s just a matter of a few years before the situation will be reversed, with the economy not growing and “good grades” erased. Before you know it, more than half of the population will be living in poverty, and consequently, finding it more difficult to put enough food on the table to feed the family.
This is why inclusive growth, just as many economists and international institutions have been pointing out, is very important at this stage in the country’s economic programs. Our farmers and fisherfolk should be helped to earn more through government interventions: better irrigation, lower cost of implements, improved access to the market with less middlemen, and better roads and mechanization.
The rural youth should be inspired to go back to farming because they will see a sure system that promises earnings from tilling the land. Honestly, employment in call centers or overseas jobs, or other existing industries will not be able to absorb the growth of the population from the countryside.
Improving access to education, for example through conditional cash transfer programs like the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps, will help, but this will take time and only if those that get past primary levels will move on to the secondary levels.
This means pulling all stops to boost farm productivity, not just for stipulated components of the 2015 agriculture sector budget including rice self-sufficiency, rehabilitation of coconut farms, and fish landing facilities, but even for high-value cash crops, fruit trees, and livestock.
The Department of Agriculture needs to play a big role in bringing technology, both hard and soft, to the farmers. The DA’s role should be to introduce innovations to improve farm productivity, and not just to solve problems like pest infestation after it has become a concern.
Food security is of paramount importance to a growing population that has breached the 100th million mark this year and has put the country on the map as having one of the biggest in the world.
While imports and global trade liberalization have generally driven down prices of food commodities, therefore benefiting consumers, it is also an unnerving situation realizing that we are a nation that is becoming dependent more and more on other countries for food that we put in our mouths.