BAGANGA, Davao Oriental – All his life, Edilberto Bohol lived off the sea. On good days, he catches just enough fish to provide for his family.
However, he and his colleagues struggle just to meet their basic needs. Edilberto catches fish in the traditional hook and line method, which can bring meager returns.
As a result, he, and many of the province’s 15,000 fishers, live below the poverty threshold. “I have been fishing since I was small. The same is true with my father. I only finished high school, and this is the only livelihood I know,” said Bohol.
Seeking to improve the plight of these fishing communities, government agencies such as the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) conducted agriculture and aquaculture training and distributed seedlings, fish fry and other production inputs to help improve livelihoods in the area.
Unfortunately, Typhoon Bopha (Pablo) struck the province before these programs could reap their intended results.
Profitable and Sustainable
And the very resources that these fisher folk relied on for their survival were wiped out. More than 400 fishing boats were damaged and almost all fish-rearing structures in Boston, Baganga, and Cateel—municipalities severely affected by Pablo—were decimated. Projects that were underway were likewise wiped out.
During the immediate aftermath of Pablo, local governments tried to focus on underlying poverty issues of their areas and resume daily fishing activities. There was an obvious need, however, to introduce alternative livelihood opportunities that could be more profitable and sustainable.
The U.S. Embassy Manila’s United States Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program, supports this idea.
Following a rapid assessment, USAID designed and implemented a multi-component disaster recovery program in Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces, under the oversight of the Mindanao Development Authority.
USAID/Philippines Mission Director Gloria D. Steele said, “The recovery program is part of the U.S. Government’s Php768 million disaster assistance to help Typhoon Pablo victims recover from the catastrophe.
This consisted of education, infrastructure, climate adaptation strengthening, agriculture and aquaculture livelihood assistance for the most severely affected municipalities.”
The multi-component approach included the introduction of high-value aquaculture to typhoon-affected fisher folk in both provinces.
The provincial Government of Davao Oriental was also provided with a high-value aquaculture industry development plan, which presents the results of a study on the viability of grouper (or lapu-lapu) production to help drive sustainable economic growth in the province.
The plan was formally handed over to Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon in August 2013. It notes that grouper is expected to give better returns to growers compared traditional aquaculture commodities, like milkfish and tilapia.
This target commodity presents the most potential for promotion and development in the area, considering its high market price, local and export market demand, availability of suitable mariculture sites and advances in technology.
The short to long-term strategies presented in the plan may also take off from the activities implemented by USAID through GEM.
USAID, in collaboration with the provincial government and BFAR, conducted a series of workshops on grouper farming for select growers associations in coastal towns. To help strengthen their climate resilience, the skills expansion effort included the construction of weather-resistant fish cages using locally sourced materials.
Fisherfolk in landlocked towns were trained on inland freshwater aquaculture.
They were also taught climate adaptation and mitigation techniques to address flooding and unstable oxygen levels that occur in fishponds when water temperature rises.
Majority of these growers received hatchery-bred grouper juveniles, milkfish fingerlings, formulated feeds and other start up materials from USAID.
“The project reached about 2,000 fisherfolk. The technologies we introduced are cost-effective, highly replicable and will also avert potential losses due to adverse weather conditions,” said Lauro Tito Ilagan, USAID-GEM Aquaculture Team Leader.
“Lapu-lapu farming can be very profitable and sustainable. At two production cycles per year, a four-compartment fish cage will allow a net income of as much as Php200,000,” Ilagan explained.
Edilberto and members of the Kinablangan Fisherfolk Association, which he chairs, are about to enjoy their first harvest of grouper.
“We can sell these at about Php500 a kilo,” he said, thanking USAID for helping his hometown. “We will reinvest part of our income to buy fingerlings and other inputs so that we can continue to improve our lives.”
Other growers groups that participated in the project, such as the Mabini Fisherfolk Association, are also on their way to recovery.
Prior to their foray into grouper production, the members were engaged in traditional cage culture of low-value milkfish which they sold for about Php100 per kilo in local wet markets. On their first cycle of production, they stand to earn approximately Php260,000.
“The seeds of recovery that we planted a year ago through a strong partnership between the Philippine and United States governments are beginning to bear fruit.
The U.S. Government will continue to work with our Philippine Government partners to help Typhoon Pablo-affected provinces recover and achieve lasting peace and greater prosperity for all of its residents,” Director Steele said.
Senator Loren Legarda today stressed on the importance of promoting green skills and green jobs, stating that it would provide employment opportunities and boost climate change adaptation efforts in the country.
Legarda, Chair of the Senate Committees on Environment and Natural Resources and on Climate Change, noted that there are already 3.5 million green jobs worldwide and the Philippines has the potential to generate thousands of green jobs, especially if there are more renewable energy investments in the country.
“We take note of the government’s continuing efforts to generate more jobs for our growing population. But despite the various programs to address unemployment, we still need to do more. We can encourage our citizens to train in green skills such as management in agriculture, forestry, horticulture, environmental information technology and other careers that contribute to environmental preservation,” she explained.
“We should also strengthen efforts to encourage more renewable energy investments in the country because this industry can provide thousands of jobs for our people. According to Greenpeace, a geothermal company in the country was able to employ 2,582 individuals for a 1,189-MW plant and that a 10-megawatt solar power plant can provide jobs for 1,000 people for six months during the period of construction and 100 permanent positions for its operation and maintenance,” she added.
The Senator, citing additional data from Greenpeace, said that the availability of green jobs in other nations and regions is rapidly increasing. In Europe, there are already about 650,000 green jobs created; more than 175,000 are employed in the United States’ wind and solar industries; and China has an estimated one million green jobs.
“In generating green jobs, we also need to actively promote the importance of renewable energy projects and encourage Filipinos to consider employment in green industries which provide healthier working environment,” said Legarda.
“Our path should be towards sustainable and resilient development where progress is measured not only through material wealth, but also and more importantly, through the happiness, safety and well-being of our citizens,” Legarda concluded.
Small scale coconut farmers in the Philippines will soon receive assistance to restore their livelihoods severely affected by last year’s Typhoon Haiyan, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said today.
It is estimated that in Region VIII alone, some 33 million coconut trees were either damaged or destroyed, affecting the livelihoods of more than one million coconut farmers.
Given that coconut trees take six to eight years to reach productivity, small-scale coconut farmers need interim support to engage in livelihood diversification activities to ensure an income, as most relied solely on coconut trees as a source of livelihood.
Working with the Government of the Philippines, and supported by the Government of Canada, FAO will work to enable small-scale coconut farmers to begin the process of intercropping, crop-diversification and livelihood/poultry raising activities. This will help these communities secure their livelihoods while waiting for the newly planted coconut trees to become productive.
Canada’s Ambassador to the Philippines, H.E. Neil Reeder, reaffirmed in Manila today the commitment made last week by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to early recovery and long-term reconstruction programmes including disaster risk reduction activities in the Philippines.
The CAD$ 6 million confirmed by Canada to FAO will help FAO and the Government of the Philippines support the rehabilitation efforts for small scale coconut farmers. Acting FAO Representative in the Philippines, Rajendra Aryal, highlighted the importance of the community and needs-based approach so as to ensure that what is being delivered meets the real needs of the typhoon affected small scale coconut farmers.
“I want to express my sincere thanks for this Canadian contribution, as it will enable FAO to support more than 11,000 coconut farming households. After having consulted local communities, in close collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform, Philippine Coconut Authority, Bureau of Animal Industries and other relevant Government institutions, we will be providing small-scale coconut farmers with vegetable seeds and also seeds for tubers such as cassava and sweet potatoes, which take only about three months to grow,” Aryal said. “Further, the farming communities will be provided with poultry and small livestock ruminants and post-harvest equipment.”
Crop diversification and intercropping will provide key access to income and restore self-sufficiency, building the resilience of communities to withstand future disasters.
“Our approach is very much demand based and very much community driven,” Aryal emphasized.
Making landfall four months ago, Typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) claimed over 6,200 lives, displaced millions and devastated the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Striking between two planting seasons, the typhoon destroyed ready-to-harvest, harvested and newly planted rice crops, and severely affected the livelihoods of the coastal fisher communities.
FAO responded to an official Government request for support to affected rice farmers, providing 75 percent of the Government-requested rice seeds. Thanks to this coordinated response by FAO, the Government and other partners, farmers who would otherwise have been unable to plant in time for the December/January planting season were able to go back to their fields, and will soon be harvesting the first rice crop since the typhoon hit the country.
Despite strong typhoons that ravaged agricultural lands last year, Department of Agriculture Secretary Alcala told about 1,500 farmers that they had produced 18.44 million metric tons of rice, enlisting the Philippines as the fastest growing rice production country in Asia.
Alcala lauded the Central Luzon farmers for helping achieve the highest rice harvest in the Philippine history during the Farmers` Lakbay Palay hosted by the Philippine Rice Research Institute in Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, April 1-4.
The production also made the country 97-percent rice self-sufficient in 2013. Although three-percent short of the 100 percent target, the country, however, registered a 16-percent increase within three years. The country was only 81-percent rice self-sufficient in 2010.
With the rice sector`s performance last year, the agriculture secretary discouraged the public from focusing on the deficit in the 100-percent rice self-sufficiency target.
“We have tried hard. Nawa`y [mapahalagan] natin, lalo na sa mga nasa Manila, ang pagpupunyagi nating mga magsasaka. Hindi ho tayo titigil sa 97 percent. Magpupursige pa din tayo para ang isasaing ni Juan dela Cruz, dito ipupunla, dito itatanim, dito aanihin (May we, especially the city dwellers, value the efforts of the farmers. We’ll not stop at 97 percent. We’ll work harder so that the rice that we’ll serve on our table will be planted and harvested in the country),” Alcala said.
Alcala, who also unveiled the latest rice technologies, urged the farmers to be receptive of new farming practices as this may help them reduce production cost and make the price of rice more competitive in the market.
“We can`t solve problems such as rice smuggling in an instant. We still have a long way to go to stop rice smuggling. As long as our production cost is high, rice smuggling will always be around,” he said in Filipino.
He said that rice smuggling persists in the country because domestic rice prices are uncompetitive to Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam.“Production cost in the Philippines is [about P11 a kilo] while in Vietnam, it`s around P6,” he said.
Alcala said that if farmers can peg production cost even at P8, rice smuggling will be minimized.At present, PhilRice is on its second season of implementing Palayabangan: 10-5 challenge, a nationwide farming competition that aims to produce 10 tons/ha yield at only P5 input cost per kilogram of palay.
The Department of Agrarian Reform today expressed confidence that it will be able to meet its targets of monumenting the lots and installing the beneficiaries of the Hacienda Luisita estate in the next few weeks. Monumenting involves the physical delineation on the ground of the beneficiaries’ CARP-awarded land by placing boundary markers or mujons.DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Paruñgao said as of the April 7 report from the DAR provincial office 5,947 farmlots, or 86.32 percent, have already been monumented. He added that out of these monumented lots, 4,478 or 65 percent have farmer beneficiaries already installed.
The DAR is confident that its self-imposed deadline for monumenting the lots and installing the farmer beneficiaries, which it has set for May, will be met unless outside forces obstruct its activities. Paruñgao also said that the DAR has been encouraging and assisting beneficiaries build organizations so that DAR would be more effective and efficient in channelling support service programs and resources of the department. “We are assisting the farmers beneficiaries in making their transition into owner-cultivators”, Paruñgao said, “We are helping them to organize themselves so that they are able to better organize farm production and marketing of their produce.”
He added that these organizations will also make it easier for the farmer beneficiary to access credit because the financial institutions are more inclined to provide loans and financial support to organizations than to individual farmers The provincial office of the DAR has been able to assist farmer beneficiaries create organizations in 8 of the 10 barangays in Hacienda Luisita. Paruñgao likewise said that in addition to helping the famer beneficiaries organize themselves, the DAR has encouraged the voluntary physical grouping of contiguous lots so that scheduling of use of farming machinery such as tractors would be more rational.
Meantime, Paruñgao said that the monumenting of the lots would have gone faster and therefore would have resulted in more farmer beneficiaries being installed had there been no instances of harassment of survey teams and ‘mujons’ being destroyed. He said that 5 persons were apprehended last April 3 while harassing a survey team that was plotting out a lot in the area. These perpetrators, allegedly members of AMBALA, were subsequently released pending the filing of appropriate charges. Paruñgao added that their act of harassment could constitute obstruction of agrarian reform. DAR has speeded up the monumenting of the lots in Hacienda Luisita. They have added survey teams to so that they will be able to install all the beneficiaries before the deadline and in time for the rainy season when farmers usually plant crops. He said that the act of obstructing the implementation of agrarian reform prescribes a penalty of 6 to 12 years imprisonment.
The Department of Agriculture is ready to carry out cloud seeding operations to induce rain over areas that have not received a rainfall for at least one week as part of its proactive strategy against a feared protracted dry spell, even as the country’s weather bureau said it’s too early to tell the occurrence of El Niño phenomenon this year.
With the country now within the summer season, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said he has instructed all the Department’s regional field offices nationwide to monitor and immediately coordinate with the Bureau of Soils and Management (BSWM) any lack of rainfall for seven to ten days in areas under their respective jurisdiction so the Bureau could mobilize its cloud seeding team in a timely manner.
In fact, as early as mid-March, BSWM has completed 15 sorties equivalent to 17 flying hours across the rain-deprived municipalities of Aglipay, Maddela and Nagtipunan, as well as over Magat Watershed areas. The DA Regional Field Unit II reported said sorties helped induce rain showers and prevented damage on some 4,155 hectares of corn farms around the province, of which 3,490 hectares are in reproductive stage and 665 hectares in vegetative stage.
BSWM is an attached agency of DA tasked to undertake cloud seeding sorties to induce rain above drought-affected farming communities.
“We are taking a proactive stance against the threat of a long dry spell even as PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) is saying El Niño is not yet in sight,” said Secretary Alcala in an interview on a local television program in General Santos City on Friday.
Apart from cloud seeding operations, the Department also readies other interventions such as the provision of with shallow tube wells and drought-tolerant crop varieties to farmers in any part of the country that will be affected by dry spell episodes.
As part of long-term measures, DA has likewise increased its investments in the repair, rehabilitation and construction of new irrigation systems, as well as in the establishment of small water impounding facilities, to help guarantee agricultural water even during dry months. From 2011 to end-December 2013, the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) said it has generated 128,242 hectares of new areas, restored 90,851 hectares and rehabilitated 453,636 hectares. NIA aims to expand total irrigated lands to 1.9 million hectares by 2016, from current 1.67 million hectares.
PAGASA has yet to issue a formal advisory on the occurrence of El Niño except for precautionary verbal warnings, as quoted in several media reports.
Global weather authorities are likewise cautious at this point in time to declare such a phenomenon happening this year. In its latest monthly advisory released in March, the National Prediction Service of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NPS-NOAA) said there is “50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall (July, August, and September).” NPS-NOAA is expected to issue its April update anytime soon. “ENSO-neutral is expected to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with about a 50% chance of El Niño developing during the summer or fall,” the agency said in its website.
ENSO-neutral refers to those periods when neither El Niño nor La Niña or the “cold” equivalent of El Niño is present. El Niño is a warming of sea-surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific that occurs every four to 12 years.The worst El Niño episode the country ever experienced was in 1997-1998, when more than P8 billion worth of crops was destroyed.
Despite strong typhoons during the last half of the year, Filipino farmers were able to produce a total of eighteen point forty four million metric tons (18.44 million MT) of palay in 2013.
“The highest ever recorded in Philippine history.”
This was according to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala who led the recognition and awarding of top producers of palay via the National Rice Achievers (NRA) awards held at the Newport Performing Arts, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City, on March 14, 2014.
Although three percent short of the 100% rice production target, overall yield was posted at 97% based on a 20.04 million MT target.
Alcala commended the local chief executives of rice-producing provinces, municipalities and cities for continuing to partner with the government in its drive to attain food self-sufficiency. He also expressed his gratitude to farmers and irrigators associations, and agricultural technicians for their invaluable contribution in attaining the historic feat.
“We value your role in ensuring safe, nutritious, affordable, and sufficient supply of food for the Filipino people,” he said.
He also challenged the provincial governors to implement programs that will increase farmers’ production and income.
In addition, he campaigned for the integration of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in rice to improve the quality of palay in preparation for intense domestic and global competition, as well as the use of appropriate modern technologies to boost overall production.
Alcala reiterated President Aquino’s directive on his 2nd State of the Nation Address: “Ang gusto nating mangyari: Una, hindi na tayo aangkat ng hindi kailangan. Ikalawa, ayaw na nating umasa sa pag-aangkat. Ang isasaing ni Juan dela Cruz, dito ipupunla, dito aanihin, dito bibilhin.”
A total of P117.42 million (M) worth of project grants and cash prizes were given out to the 2013 NRA awardees consist of 12 provinces, 48 municipalities, 10 Irrigators’ Associations (IAs), three Small Water Impounding System Associations (SWISAs), and 496 Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs). Each province received P4 M worth of project grant, while municipalities received P1 M worth of project grants. The IAs and SWISAs each received P1 M and P500, 000 respectively, while AEWs were given P20, 000 cash prize each. (Marlo Asis/Oda Rodriguez, DA-AFID)
WITH various controversies and anomalies, Philippines agricultural forecast seems to follow a bright rainbow in the sky.
No less than the government’s Department of Agriculture under its chief honcho –Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, has been in the limelight lately, due to several controversies hounding the country’s precious prime staple food –rice.
In fact, just before the ‘forced’ resignation of former Custom’s chief Biazon, rice smuggling was among those that hugged newspaper headlines from Aparri to Jolo, and whereby top accused rice smugglers rocked the confines of our anti-crime agencies via several high-point Senate-led inquiries.
The Philippine Agricultural Journalists Inc. (PAJ), one of the country’s pioneering news associations (now led by the dynamic Philippine Star business editor and my close friend –Roman ‘Sir Manong’ Floresca,) has been at the frontlines of the nation’s agricultural dimensions since the mid-seventies, dwelling on in-depth articles, research, plus innovations and insights on the latest developments of our society’s prime economic-mover in the 21st century.
And while we are dwelling on our favorite subject –rice, did you know that Ilocos Norte has just received its deserving award for being one of the top 12 rice-producing provinces of the country. No less than Ilocos Norte’s hard-working Governor –Imee Marcos received the “2013 National Rice Achievers”(NRA) trophy from DA Sec Alcala, and national rice production coordinator and the DA’s Undersecretary Dante S. Delima. As per media release which appeared in the PS: “other winning provinces includeNueva Ecija, North Cotobato, Nueva Viscaya, Isabela, Pangasinan, Bukidnon, Bulacan , Kalinga, Mindoro Occidental, Laguna and Lanao del Norte. A total of P117.42 million worth of project grants and cash prizes were given out to the awardees which consisted of 12 provinces, 48 municipalities, 10 irrigator associations (IA’s), three small water impounding system associations (SWISAs) and agricultural extension workers (AEWs).
The addendum report stated that “each province received P4-million worth of project grant, while municipalities received P1-million worth of project grants. The IA’s and SWISAs each received P1-million and P500,000 respectively, while AEWs were given P20,000 cash prize each.” Well folks, that says a lot about the ‘strength’ of our rice-producing provinces.
Just wondering how this ‘good news’ would affect the cash registers of some rice-supporting fast-food establishments like Inasal for example, which is by the way, now under the stewardship of globally-strong Filipino-owned firm –Jollibee Group.
And by the way, what have we here on the latest developments concerning the hotly-controversial National Food Authority (NFA) which was at the receiving end of countless accusations vis-a-vis “anomalies and corruption” that required Senate and Congressional inquiry for that matter? In fact, a number of people’s organizations have called for its abolition “citing billions of pesos in debt the government has incurred over the years.”
Latest media reports however has it that no less than the Palace “has stood pat on its position not to abolish the grains procurement agency, saying this will affect millions of Filipino farmers dependent on NFA support price for palay.”
Now we wonder why this present administration is still open to import rice from our neighboring ASEAN brothers, when it has been revealed (as per documented media reportage) that our beloved Philippines has enough rice production to feed our growing millions of Filipinos nationwide. Let us remember, what the Word states: “…and the truth shall set you free.”
And to think that “to date, NFA’s debts are placed at around P150 billion.” Where do we go from here?
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) recently launched the construction of a warehouse facility worth P5.9 million for the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) of Rizal, Cagayan.
The post-harvest facility will consist of a 60-square meter warehouse with a 2,000-cavan capacity, a 48-square meter office, and a 450-square meter solar dryer. DAR Regional Director Marjorie Ayson led the groundbreaking rites of the Malasatco Post-harvest facility project along with Rizal Mayor Joel Ruma, in the agrarian reform community (ARC) of Malaueg, in Rizal town, Cagayan. Ayson said the farmers suffer spoilage of harvested crops due to lack of proper storage facilities. “Our farmers experience losses because most farm family houses don’t have enough space in their lots to properly store their harvested crops. Another major reason is the very long distance of Malaueg ARC to the market center,” said Ayson. According to Ayson, because of the remoteness of Malaueg ARC to the town proper “very few public vehicles ply the long stretch of rocky road. Delivery vehicles for farmers’ produce are also very few and are put on a schedule basis by the farmers to accommodate their transportation needs.” Ayson added that during summer, it takes at least two days for the farmers to traverse the rough roads to bring their produce to the market. It takes them longer days during the rainy season when the roads are deep with thick mud. “By the time they get to the market center the crops are wilted and some are already spoiled. The wilted produce don’t sell as much as fresh ones,” said Ayson. Ayson thanked Mayor Ruma for his support for his farmer-constituents in donating the lot where the storage facility is being constructed. Apart from the storage facility which will be finished by May 23, 2014, the municipality of Rizal was also provided by the DAR with a communal irrigation project in Bgy. Mauanan and a potable water supply in Bgy. Illuru. Malasatco is a farmers’ cooperative where most members are agrarian reform beneficiaries.
By VL Domingo
BEFORE transplanting, the farmer must have to buy at least 10 bags of mix-grade fertilizers for basal application to have a good crop. Because he has very little capital which he also borrowed from the usurer he buys only 1/3 of the plant requirement.
Furthermore, the price of fertilizer as an input initially went up by 136% (and it continues to increase), since only a few Chinese traders are importing it, thus again limiting the supply of fertilizers which provides the plant energy for productivity.
This is specially so when planting during the dry season. During the rainy season, somehow the farmers get free nitrogen from the air every time there is a thunderstorm that initiates nitrification. Meanwhile, his soil has gotten acidic after more than 50 years of chemical farming which was first introduced in the l960’s by ESSO (Standard Oil).
Not a few government employees lost their lives and jobs in the fertilizer subsidy scam for lack of supply.
A Regional Director in Lasam and a DA employee who knew too much about the scam were murdered. The DA employee with his wife, and his only daughter who just graduated from college and a niece working with him as his assistant in their house in Bulacan were murdered in the middle of the night, wiping out the whole family.
When palay is harvested haphazardly, you again lose 15-20% of what you should harvest from your backbreaking efforts in farming. This is after the farmers spend a lot of money on chemicals to protect their fields from pests and diseases.
Again they need to contract at least 20 harvesters. The practice then is they get 10% of your harvest. This is after shaking off easily 5% of the rice particles to the ground and stepping on them. They could save this if they could only hire harvesting machines. But there is none.
Worse, even the harvesters like the transplanters are gone.
In the barangays, there are two kinds of farm workers. There are those who want to harvest only while the others want to transplant only.
The practice of harvest sharing is gone; hence you could no longer be assured of harvesters on time. You have to wait for harvesters from the other barangay that may still have some harvesters. Meanwhile, the field rats are slowly harvesting your palay if you did not put a rat trap before harvest. There is then a need to rent a combined harvester.
But for the moment only a few towns have it because it is very expensive. It is too costly for an investor. Only a federation or a cooperative could afford to buy it and rent it out to its members if they could raise the funds which is usually not available from banks and the government is not also investing on it.
Availability of Warehouses
Again the supply chain of the grains industry is broken by the lack of investments in warehouses. Only traders are investing and making windfall profits at the expense of the farmer-producers. This is where the trader starts making his profits. This is where the cartels come in.
Only a few own rice warehouses in Metro Manila and they connive to dictate the price in the market.
Recently, they even hired persons and provided them money to queue for rice just to dramatize that there is no rice supply anymore from the NFA warehouses. The NFA then had to release their buffer stocks which some unscrupulous NFA employees usually keep and allow it to rot and sell to traders for a clean profit and recorded as losses in the books of the agency.
Farmer cooperatives have been given funds to build their own warehouses, but their trading funds were mismanaged leaving them bankrupt. So in effect there is no supply of warehouse space even as they stood in the middle of the fields like “white elephants” in the middle of brown and barren rice land for lack of irrigation.
This happens because of subsistence farming as the norm that now needs to be transformed into commercial farming with highly professionalized farmers federation to do the business of planting and trading palay and rice to supply the needs of the country and be truly self sufficient (not by statistical manipulations) .
Supply of Post-Harvest Facilities
Easily, 5-10% is lost in rice milling using dilapidated rice mills that are very inefficient. Part of the rice supply to the consumers is being given to feed mills for livestock instead of human consumption.
Drying in the highways shows the Jurassic way of drying palay which leads again to additional losses that could easily compensate for the 10% shortage that is reported every year.
Drying and Milling are not integrated because of the absence of investors. The government could easily invest on this through farmer federations but is not being done. If the government shifts its policy to invest instead of subsidizing, it will be easier for them to monitor the funds instead of using government money in anomalous subsidies and programs.
The millions of funds allocated by DA Regional offices for training monitoring, evaluation and support services can be realigned with the Government Social Investment Funds (GSIF) to finance the construction of post-harvest facilities, provide trading funds for the importation of inputs and buying palay from their members with incentives and selling to the government those that they could not sell for Quedan, stockpiling and buffer stocking.
GSIF is what is needed in completing the infrastructure in commercial rice production instead of just the farm to market road which others call as “road to my farm” among Congressmen and Senators.
Politics of Rice
The absence of rice supply in the market will topple down a President or he will lose his bid for re-election. This is the politics of rice. Thus a sitting President (with or without him knowing it actually puts a tacit approval to his/her henchmen to DALPO (Do All Possible) and allow even smugglers to bring in rice just to make sure that there is no shortage. Most often also this will be tolerated by his henchmen to keep them in power and in their high positions in government.
Thus, the previous President tolerated this sad reality through her Secretaries of Agriculture. The standing order then was to produce or tolerate smuggled rice (to insure supply in the hands of the retailers). Along the way, sometimes things go wrong in this “modus operandi”.
One popular businessman lost his life when he told the President about a smuggled rice and the President without knowing the implication since it is a complex reality in food security, had the goods confiscated. The businessman was then shot (as a double crosser) in his house probably even in front of his wife by telling on the smugglers.
The “Hunger Game” which starts with government lies that there is sufficient supply, has now graduated into a “Supply Game” which the government has failed to address by subsidizing creating anomalous transactions has now graduated into a “Killing Game”.
Like history, these anomalies in the P300 billion grains industry will keep on repeating itself from administration to administration until Kingdom Come unless there is a paradigm shift in dealing with this killing issue.
The first is to listen to what the farmers say (through their credible leaders) as a solution to this recurring problem of rice supply which starts from lack of palay supply, lack of seeds, lack of water, lack of inputs, lack of farm credit, which continues because of inefficient transplanting, harvesting, milling and warehousing thus making their unit costs higher than the world price which now results to unbridled smuggling of rice in all ports of the country.
The second is for the government to invest (not subsidize) in the commercial ventures of farmer federations and similar associations to now operate their own agribusiness.
The third is to allow the price of palay and rice to seek its own levels. When the farmers earn more because of free enterprise (not with government control) but with government investments, the farmers will produce more and better quality palay because they will now have regular incomes from the commercial venture in which they participated. They can then buy more manufacture goods and invigorate the manufacturing industry to be able to pay higher wages and can now afford to buy a more expensive rice directly sold to them by the farmers through cluster farming.
This will then enable the farmers to produce rice at lower unit cost, provide the supply needed by the traders and generate the local and national economy. With more incomes from palay farming then they don’t have to sell their seeds, keep some stocks for their use and will not become a consumer of rice themselves as claimed by many technocrats who are not even “walking the fields” just to justify their claim of certifying importation.