Senator Sonny Angara wants immediate government intervention to aid farmers hit by huge losses due to oversupply and low prices of farm produce, as well as put in place long-term solutions to make farming sustainable.
"The government should go beyond giving loans to affected farmers as this is just a short-term solution. What we need are solutions that are sustainable in the long-run such as providing them assistance in marketing their produce or facilities to process their harvest," Angara said.
Cordillera farmers were reportedly forced to throw away tons of vegetables they harvested last week as prices have taken a dive due to overproduction and the lack of means to transport the harvest to market.
It was also reported that traders were not able to buy the produce to transport to Bicol and the Visayas due to flooding brought by Tropical Depression Usman. Bicol is part of the overland supply route to the Visayas connected by ferries.
The Department of Agriculture has announced that farmers who lost their produce could avail of a loan of up to P50,000 at six percent annual interest under the agency's Production Loan Easy Access.
"Farmers could easily go out of business if there is a glut in supply because prices can plummet below cost," Angara pointed out.
The lawmaker said the government, particularly the agriculture department, should heed the call of farmers for the building of more and bigger processing facilities to address oversupply.
He said that processing facilities, such as the Benguet Agri-Pino Trading Center, can prolong the shelf life of farm produce since they have dry and cold storage facilities.
"Kung may mas marami at malaking processing facility, mas marami sanang gulay ang na-preserve habang hinihintay nating humupa ang baha sa Bicol," Angara pointed out.
Thus, Angara said there should be a greater government intervention regarding facilities and the use of technology to help farmers operate effectively.
The government, he added, could also help farmers find the best price for their crops by dealing directly with large buyers.
Angara believes that the focus of the government should be on supporting farmers if it wants to lift the ailing agriculture sector.
According to the lawmaker, agriculture remains a sector most vital to the overall development of the country, not just as the main driver of food security, but also as a source of livelihood.
It is for this reason why he filed a bill seeking to institutionalize agri-entrepreneurship program in the Philippines.
The proposed Entrepreneurial Agricultural Education Act filed by Angara aims to develop and strengthen the agricultural education and training in the country to encourage more Filipinos to become "agri-preneurs”.
Photo by Cesar Tomambo/Senate PRIB/BusinessWorld