MANILA — The recent typhoons highlighted land and crop use conversion as a factor in worsening the effects of disasters on food production and the need to ensure adequate land for food production. However amid all these, government has reserved more hectares of agricultural land for export crops and use of foreign agro-corporations.
According to the Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corporation, 1.5 million hectares of land have been developed for agribusiness since 2005, most of which are for planting high value commercial crops to be exported to other countries. Government has also approved 3 million hectares for foreign agro-corporations, which includes 60,000 hectares to Pacific Bio-Fields Corp. of Japan.
More worrying is the recent announcement of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that over 20 agribusiness firms will meet with nearly 200 Philippine companies to form partnerships and joint ventures in fisheries, biofuels, processed goods, meat and poultry, dairy products, etc. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) also granted 375,091 hectares of land to be used exclusively for jatropha production, and opened 30 more hectares for public auction.
According to IBON, data from the Department of Agrarian Reform of approved converted land area of 46,000 recorded over the span of 27 years is too small and does not include yet the areas lost to massive land grabbing, illegal conversions, and land speculation for industrial, financial and agribusiness ventures in the country.
While the disaster will likely affect food production, IBON said that this would have been mitigated if agricultural lands were maintained and harnessed for food production. The impact of land use and crop conversion on the production of staple crops has been evident in the last decades. Since the 1990s, farm area planted to palay fell by more than 87,000 hectares while that of corn was reduced by almost 300,000 hectares. Such decrease in the farm area spelled the massive displacement of Filipino farmers.
With the worsening economic crisis and as the country becomes more vulnerable to disasters, government should address the threat of food insecurity by ensuring that the country has sufficient land for food production, as well as adequate support for producers, to meet the food needs of Filipinos—rather than allowing the large-scale conversion of agricultural lands. (Ibon Foundation / Bulatlat.com)