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Food output recovery bleak

PCAFI: No relief for next 8 years on low production, spiraling population 

Food production recovery for the Philippines was not within sight, at least for the next eight years, due to challenges in the local agriculture sector, the country’s biggest food group said.

The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. (PCAFI) presented a bleak outlook of the country’s food situation – which faces a looming crisis starting the second half of this year, according to the Department of Agriculture—following the COVID-19 pandemic and several animal diseases outbreaks.

In a statement, PCAFI president Danilo Fausto said: “Agriculture has been considered as a key sector by successive governments in the Philippines and it’s been maintained at a low level over the past decade, oscillating between 1.3 and 1.9 percent of total government budget.”

“However, agriculture brings 8.8 to 10 percent of GDP to the country and employs nearly 35 percent of its population. As such, the country’s agricultural index is about 0.18 percent in comparison with the agricultural index of 1 in the US and 0.6 in Vietnam.”

He added that the domestic meat supply would take a while to recover, and the country will largely depend on imports for its meat requirements.

“In our 2030 outlook, pork production levels will have nearly recovered to pre-ASF (African Swine Fever) levels despite a slightly lower herd. The majority of pork production will come from large commercial farms, either contracted to or owned by slaughter groups,” Fausto said.

This was on top of the country’s low food production and its spiraling population, which have contributed to the shortage of agricultural productivity exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic on the economy, rising fuel prices, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a ranking official said Thursday.

Agriculture Undersecretary Fermin Adriano seconded the statement of DA Secretary William Dar on Wednesday that a food crisis loomed for the country in the second half of the year.

According to DA’s Adriano, “In the last two decades, our productivity has only been increasing by 1.1 percent, while our population is growing annually by 1.4 percent. That’s the reason why there’s a shortage in our (agricultural) production.”

Meanwhile, Albay Rep. Jose Clemente Salceda said the incoming Marcos Jr. administration should focus on addressing agricultural smuggling in the country.

Salceda, chairperson of the House ways and means committee, has been vocal against the proliferation of agricultural smuggling in the country.

He earlier said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should be more involved in pursuing cases against smugglers.

To mitigate the food shortage, the government is relying on the National Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization and Industrialization Plan, which includes programs to beef up the country’s food and agriculture production.

The plan was first implemented in 2021 and is expected to be continued until 2030.

“We will pass on the document to the next leadership of the department. And as I said, there’s no time for a learning curve to the next officials of agriculture,” Adriano said.

The DA also urged the public to take up urban farming to further bolster the country’s food production.

Dar said: “Every Filipino should be ready. If allowed, we should plant, breed animals, and fishes. We have to do it even in the urban areas.”

But his warning of a “looming food crisis” was “a call to develop local agriculture,” a legislator said Thursday.

“Filipino food should be primarily supplied by Filipino producers to Filipino consumers,” Rep. Alan Ecleo of the Lone District of Dinagat Islands, member for the minority bloc of the House committee on agriculture and food, said in a statement.

The recently re-elected representative said the threat of a food crisis was “another reminder that there is no substitute for developing our own food production capacity.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the impact of global crises to cripple the flow of goods from one country to another, as well as the need for food to be readily accessible and efficiently distributed within a nation’s borders,” said Ecleo, the incumbent vice chairperson of the House aquaculture and fisheries resources committee.

Ecleo appealed to his fellow legislators and the incoming Marcos administration “to pursue programs which will provide farmers, fisherfolk, and agricultural cooperatives with the needed infrastructure, capital, training, and support services” not just as source of income and livelihood, but to “compete with their counterparts in Southeast Asia and the global market.”

“Our competitiveness should be measured in how well the whole value chain of food production in our country sustains our local needs first,” Ecleo said. “We have vast natural resources and indigenous experiences to inform and improve food production at the national level.”

The Agriculture Department is also urging the government to add to the buffer stock of NFA (National Food Authority) rice for 30 days instead of seven days. The supply will be sold to members of 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) who are severely affected by rising food prices.

However, the DA admitted its proposal would require a bigger allocation.

Salceda has also eyed some amendments to the Special Safeguards Law, such that regardless of whether imported goods are smuggled or not, the safeguards will still apply.

The Senate committee of the whole had investigated the proliferation of smuggled agricultural products in the Philippine market. Four names of alleged “players” in vegetable smuggling supposedly protected by politicians were floated in a Senate inquiry.

 

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