Agri groups raise grave concern over gov’t’s pro-importation policies

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Agriculture, where Mindanao has a comparative advantage, is one sector that could benefit the most from the potential increase in investments, according to Moody’s. However, importation of agriculture products affect these farmers’ livelihood particularly their earnings. FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines — Industry leaders on Thursday slammed the government for promoting pro-importation policies at the expense of local producers, noting that “for the first time, all sectors in agriculture are suffering within a single administration.”

Some 15 organizations with nearly 50 participants joined the virtual forum organized by the Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF) and the National Movement for Food Sovereignty where farmers, livestock raisers, and fishers used the platform to air their grievances against economic managers and the Department of Agriculture (DA).

They said the further easing of the importation of rice, corn, fish, and meat has adversely impacted other food commodities, reflected in declining farm prices and the migration of food producers to other industries.

“This is the first time that all sectors are suffering within a single administration,” said Bong Inciong, president of the United Broilers Raisers Association. “I have nothing personal against Secretary [William] Dar but he is the most submissive secretary of agriculture vis a vis our economic managers.”

Inciong is pertaining to DA’s support to the Department of Finance and the National Economic and Development Authority’s proposal to impose tariff cuts on meat and rice. Both agencies are also pushing for the deregulation of the sugar industry which the DA has not opposed.

Other industry leaders threw their support to Inciong.

Noel Reyes, agriculture spokesperson, refuted the comment and laughed in response, adding that the agency has been doing its very best to address gaps in the industry’s value chain.

“These statements, what they’re all saying, have been used repeatedly for a long time,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. “We’d rather not give them attention and focus on the job.”

Pablo Rosales, head of Progresibong Alyansa ng mga Mangingisda, also criticized the administration’s weak foreign policies to protect the West Philippine Sea, stressing that small-scale fisherfolk are left to fight for their own fishing grounds and livelihood.

Industry leaders said too much reliance on imports could significantly hurt the country’s food security in the long run. They added that with world prices of basic food commodities on the rise, countries all over the world are beefing up their own capacity to produce food – but not the Philippines.

“If these policies remain the status quo, local agricultural output will suffer,” said Arze Glipo, executive director of IRDF. “Agriculture continues to register dismal growth because domestic producers are not given enough support.”

Inciong said authorities must stop treating agricultural products as “commodities” meant to be exploited but as a “community resource” that has to be sustained.

Rene Ofreneo, professor emeritus at the University of the Philippines, also warned that food insecurity may lead to social unrest, adding that the fool-proof way to address uncertainties in food production is supporting local industries.

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JPV


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