Govt urged to prioritize agri, food producers – The Manila Times

There is a need to revisit the government's strategic plan for agriculture and rural development to ensure that local food producers and other agricultural workers get their much-needed support from the government, food security advocates said.
The Philippines has a long way to go toward achieving its food security goals, said Dr. Ronald Edilberto Ona, fean of the College of Sciences at Palawan State University. “We need to revisit our strategic plan for agriculture and rural development to ensure that our farmers, fisherfolk, and other agricultural workers, who comprise 40 percent of our labor force, are not left behind,” he said.
“To achieve food security, reduce poverty, and end hunger, the private sector, non-government organizations, people's organizations, and civil society groups must join the government in this endeavor. Truly, no one should be left behind and everyone should think that poverty, hunger, and food security concern us all,” said Ona.
Richmond Banaag, Southern Luzon State University student regent and son of a farmer, also called on the government to take care of Filipino farmers. “Train them and educate them, teach them to integrate traditional and modern techniques in farming. Aside from this, allocate subsidies and loans with low-interest rates for our farmers so they can continue to farm, even with the many challenges they constantly face, such as global warming and extreme weather conditions,” he said.
Banaag, who is also president of the Supreme Student Council Federation, likewise called on the government to support Republic Act 11321, or the “Sagip Saka Act,” allowing government agencies to buy directly from farmers and fishers.
Citing the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Ona said the agriculture, forestry and fishery sector contributesonly an average of 20 percent to the country's gross domestic product (GDP), with an 8.4-percent contribution in the second quarter of 2022. “This is unfortunate considering that the agriculture sector is the lifeblood of the Philippine economy as it employs about 40 percent of Filipino workers,” he said.
Globally, according to estimates compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the world by 2050 will need to produce 60 percent more food to feed a population of 9.3 billion. “There is a big shortfall between the amount of food the world produces today and the amount needed to feed everyone in 2050,” Ona noted.
In terms of food security, based on The Economist's 2021 Global Food Security Index (GFSI), the Philippines ranked 64th out of 113 countries in its four dimensions of food security.
Asis Perez, food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan convenor, is also saddened that despite their hardships and efforts, food producers remain impoverished. He said that farmers and fishers are the top two poorest sectors in the country, with 31.6-percent and 26.2-percent poverty incidence respectively.
The former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) national director said that some consumers unfairly criticize rice and vegetable farmers for increases in food prices, not knowing that farmers don't benefit from the increases at all. “It is often the traders who gain from the sale,” he said.
Tugon Kabuhayan said that the best way to honor Filipino farmers, fishers and other food producers would be for the government to prioritize the agricultural sector.
“We honor them… every day for their untiring efforts in putting food on ourtable. We would like to emphasize that all of us in the food industry are united in the call to once and for all prioritize our agricultural sector… We would always need our food producers. We fear that if our governmentdoesnot heed the call, there'll be more farmers who will stop tilling the land and fishermen who will stop going out to sea,” Asis said.

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