Agroecology X, an alliance of local food producers and agricultural groups, pointed out the Department of Agriculture’s failure to address their problems, particularly the impacts of African swine fever and rice importation.
By ARNETH ASIDDAO
MANILA — Agricultural groups and food stakeholders said they will not attend the Department of Agriculture’s National Food Security Summit on May 18-19 to condemn the agency’s “utter disregard of our [food producers] voices amid repeated engagements and its continued patronage of foreign big business and local monopolies.”
Agroecology X, an alliance of local food producers and agricultural groups, pointed out the DA’s failure to address their problems, particularly the impacts of African swine fever and rice importation.
“We are dismayed over the DA’s carrying over of policy frameworks proven ineffective in addressing hunger and in building the country’s food self-sufficiency,” the group said.
Bong Inciong of the United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA) said the summit aims to mislead people into thinking that the agriculture department cares for local producers even after damaging the industry.
“Their speakers will only rationalize their policies that are anchored in import liberalization,” Inciong said in an online press conference this morning, May 11.
Rosendo So of Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) called the agriculture department’s consultations a “stamp pad.”
“What they do is they make programs and just thrust them upon the agriculture sector,” So said.
Nicanor Briones, chairman of Pork Producers of the Philippines, said the agriculture department failed to prevent and control the spread of African swine fever (ASF) which has now spread to 12 regions, 46 provinces, and 493 cities and municipalities in the country.
Briones also slammed the agency’s lack of preparedness and initiative, highlighting its failure to allocate funds for the ASF at the onset of the virus in neighboring countries.
He added that Agriculture Secretary William Dar aggravated the situation by pushing for Executive Order (EO) 128 which lowered the tariff rate on pork imports.
President Rodrigo Duterte also proposed to increase the minimum access volume of pork imports to 350,000 metric tons from the current 54,000 metric tons.
Chester Warren Tan, president of the National Federation of Hog Farmers Inc, also expressed his concern over the possible effects of increased importation on hog raisers in Visayas and Mindanao already dealing with surplus pork.
Duterte has just declared a nationwide state of calamity over the African swine fever, two years after the first ASF outbreak in 2019.
The ASF has resulted in a reduction of local swine population by around three million hogs, leading to more than P100 billion (US$2.09 billion) in losses and skyrocketing prices of pork products.
Meanwhile, rice farmers are still suffering from the Rice Tariffication Law in 2019. The law removes import quotas, allowing the unlimited importation of rice and resulting in low farmgate prices of palay.
Farmers lost P70-80 billion ($1.46 million to $1.67 million) to during the first year of its implementation and P90 billion in its second year, said Cathy Estavillo of Bantay Bigas.
Estavillo said that farmgate prices of palay have plummeted to as low as P15. She said this trend will most likely continue due to the government’s neoliberal policies including the all-out liberalization of rice imports.
She also pointed out that the continuous land use and crop conversion and lack of irrigation in farmlands further push local palay producers to misery.
“Our farmers could produce enough rice for the country to be self-sufficient, even more, if only there was enough government support,” Estavillo said.
Agroecology X warned that the DA’s summit “might blindly echo the narrowly pro-corporate direction” by the United Nation’s Food Systems Summit.
The alliance also rallied support for the National People’s Food Systems Summit in September where they will discuss clear alternatives to achieve food security.