FEBRUARY 11, 2009
ATTY. EFREN MONCUPA
Lead Convenor, Go Organic! Philippines
RECENT development such as the slight increase in the price of rice in the market is something consumers really need to worry about. The daunting problem of food security, after all, is everybody’s concern.
While no less than Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap has allayed fears of yet another food crisis with the shortage in the supply of rice, saying such is a normal occurrence during this time of the year during the transition phase between the wet and dry harvest seasons, doubts have been cast as to how the government intends to address the problem in the long run.
Precisely this is because lawmakers themselves failed to identify how the recent budget for food production under the economic stimulus fund will be spent and which agency is in charge of spending this particular budget item.
Potential solutions to the perennial food crisis vis-à-vis food production shortfalls, particularly in rice can be expected considering the availability of a P2.5 billion economic stimulus fund for food production had been announced by Malacanang.
While some groups said the amount is “not even enough to make a dent to address the perennial food crisis” Go Organic! Philippines are more worried about such limited financial resources for food production eventually going to waste.
For one, we are not even sure if the Department of Agriculture (DA), the agency in charge of food production, will be the one to manage the fund.
Let me quote the special provision on food production: “The amount herein appropriated (P2.5 Billion) shall be used to increase food production, which shall include growing and production of tropical fruits, indigenous crops, expanded production of ruminants, dairy and poultry production including guarantee fund for livestock and poultry, sea cages for Tilapia and Bangus and seaweed production, and acquisition and operation of motorized banca for cluster fishing communities.”
We want to know how exactly is the government going to do that, considering that “of the P2.5-billion stimulus fund for food production, P100 million will go for personal services, P1.4 billion for maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), and P1 billion for capital outlays.”
This is quite vague. We need specifics. We need to know how the fund will be spent to benefit the Filipino people.
The economic stimulus package for food production should be geared towards the promotion of sustainable agriculture that will generate jobs and livelihood opportunities in rural communities.
A comprehensive rural development package centered on the promotion of sustainable agriculture and organic farming is much needed to strengthen Philippine agriculture. Especially through production and postharvest support including technical assistance to farmers, credit support, construction of more postharvest facilities to reduce postharvest losses and marketing support.
The practice of organic farming or nature farming will require the production of organic farm inputs such as organic fertilizer and organic pesticide.
With proper training and technical know how, farmers will be lured to venture into organic fertilizer and organic pesticide production to meet the expected increase in the demand, considering that the DA is pushing for the conversion of 10 percent of the 4 million-hectare Philippine rice fields into organic farm sites.
Substantially reducing the country’s dependence on imported fertilizer will require the massive production of organic fertilizer and organic pesticides.
The production of organic fertilizers and organic pesticides could eventually start a new industry, which could provide livelihood opportunities and generate jobs in rural communities.
To encourage farmers to venture into organic fertilizer and botanical pesticides production, the government should initiate more capacity-building seminars and training that will empower the farmers with the technical know-how to start their own business.
In the long run, support services should also be designed for the expected increase in production of organically-grown agricultural products, particularly rice, fruits and vegetables, which will require the establishment of postharvest facilities for organic agricultural produce, to ensure that the will be free from contamination from other agricultural produce that were applied with chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
This way, we will have more micro-entrepreneurs in rural communities who will provide jobs, more than just farmers.