The government must “support the farmers” to effectively address the high incidence of poverty and hunger, Senator Kiko Pangilinan said on Monday.
He said that instead of tracking only food production, government should measure success in terms of higher income of Filipino farmers.
“This means, make him more productive. Increase production,” said Pangilinan, himself a farmer.
“Rather than relying on imports from other countries–because there may come a time when other countries will refuse to export to us, we should also look at our food security. Otherwise, we won’t ensure food for our people,” he said.
The Filipino farmer earns roughly P8,333 a month, which is below the P9,140 a Filipino family of five requires to meet basic food and non-food needs, according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority’s Family Income and Expenditure Survey from 2015.
“When our farmer is not capacitated, supply is low and prices are high. And we are all affected,” said Pangilinan.
“So we have to capacitate our farmers by bench-marking their income and comparing that with farmers’ income in Thailand, Vietnam, and China,” he said.
Government should focus not only on inflation, or the rise in prices of goods and services, said the former presidential adviser on food security and agricultural modernization from May 2014 to October 2015, but also on food producers, their welfare, and their incomes.
“Why is inflation there? Because prices are high. Why are prices high? Because supply is limited. Why is supply limited? Because our farmers are not capacitated. Because their output is low. Because government support is still lacking. Because they are still poor. Because they are hit by pests. Because they are devastated by typhoons and floods,” he said.
He added, “Careful deliberation is needed on the proposal to import and impose tariff on rice, or it could be doomsday for Filipino rice farmers, who are already hurting from the high cost of production, landlessness, displacement, and government neglect.”
“Importation is a stop-gap measure in providing cheap food now. But the strategic consideration really is to secure our farmers, so that they earn more, and that they are able to produce more,” he said.