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Kiko laments poor state of agriculture in PH: Naunahan na tayo ng Thailand, Vietnam!

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Hunger stalks an estimated 3.1 million Filipino families, who have experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the last three months.

Senator Kiko Pangilinan stressed this on Tuesday based on a recent survey as he lamented that, “As we observe World Food Day, the local situation is not too promising.”

“Filipinos have been queueing for affordable NFA (National Food Authority) rice, while some towns in Mindanao saw the price of rice rise to P70 per kilo,” he said.

Pangilinan said that the average age of farmers in the Philippines is 58 years old. “They are mostly males with eight years of education, or studied only until grade 8, yet support a family of five or more.”

“While this profile is not far from those of our neighboring countries in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), the cost of living, as well as the cost of production and competitiveness, spells the difference in quality of life,” he said.

He deplored that compared to the rest of its neighbors, the Philippines “lags behind in rice production, with only 18 metric tons (MT) in 2016 compared to the 27 MT of Thailand and 45 MT of Vietnam.”

From this, Thai farmers earn about P32,000 a month, with 3.2 hectares of farmland. Filipino farmers earn some P8,300 a month with only 1.3 hectares of farmland.

“The Philippines’ poverty line is P9,100. Worse, this measly income of Filipino farmers is diminished by the high prices of commodities,” said Pangilinan, a member of the Senate minority bloc.

Filipinos in 2018 faced an inflation of 6.7% in September, the highest in nine years and 4.9% higher than 2016’s average of 1.8%, showing almost no improvement in quality of life.

“Given these, we must take up the mission of improving and safeguarding our nation’s food basket and stabilizing prices and supply, while empowering those at the forefront of agriculture–farmers, farm workers, fisher folks, and those engaged in trade–with the means to improve their lives. We must also channel resources to policies and programs that directly benefit our undernourished children,” he said.

“Together, we have to demonstrate our resolve to liberate Filipinos from malnutrition and hunger, and give all of us the means to lead productive lives, and contribute to a progressive Philippines,” he said.

Pangilinan added, “Remember: If we are to secure our food, we must secure our farmers. Because having happy and healthy Filipino farmers means a happy and healthy Philippines.”