Achieve food self-sufficiency through a pan-national approach

BEFORE President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. took the reins of the Department of Agriculture (DA), I stressed that his administration must have the political will to give agriculture a bigger budget, 250 billion pesos per year.

At this budget level, the country can undertake more programs covering a wider range of commodities which, in turn, will help President Marcos achieve his vision of a self-sufficient Philippines in food production.

And our President made it clear in his State of the Nation Address on July 25, 2022 that he wants to accelerate local production of a wide range of commodities, also using science-based solutions.

For this year, the total budget for agriculture is 102.5 billion pesos, for both the DA and the National Irrigation Administration. For 2023, I would not be surprised if President Marcos asked for a budget of 200 billion pesos for agriculture.

I read a Manila Times article titled “DBM finalizing 2023 budget” published on July 15, 2022 quoting Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman saying “Agriculture is very important to him” or to President Marcos. She added that agriculture will be one of the five sectors that will benefit from the largest budget for the next financial year.

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This is certainly good news, but the equally important factor for the Philippines to avoid a food crisis is to employ the pan-national approach, which also includes the involvement of civil society in addition to government and from the private sector.

Food self-sufficiency vs food security

The common goal set by President Marcos is for the Philippines to achieve food self-sufficiency, which may present more challenges than achieving food security. The two concepts are not the same, as food self-sufficiency means achieving at least 100% national production for major staples like rice, maize, poultry, pork and aquaculture products.

Food security, on the other hand, allows the importation of food to fill gaps in domestic production of an agricultural product and avoid price spikes caused by supply shortages that primarily affect poor households. Notably, it’s hard to beat the law of supply and demand.

Given the realities revealed by the Russian-Ukrainian war, global food chains can be disrupted by localized conflict, achieving food self-sufficiency, and ultimately food sovereignty, should become the new paradigm for the Philippines. And we should join President Marcos in that.

So who should or must participate in the pan-national approach for the Philippines to achieve food self-sufficiency? Here are most, if not all of them:

1. The One DA family – this includes all agencies and units under the department, as well as its regional field offices, a number of which house research centres;

2. Other government agencies – the Department of Science and Technology has technologies to increase agricultural production while the Department of Trade and Industry champions the cause of micro, small and medium enterprises of large numbers in the countries that are involved in agribusiness. Also, the Cooperative Development Authority can help upgrade more cooperatives so that they can accumulate hundreds of millions or billions of pesos in assets.

3. The academy – even before being appointed head of the department of agriculture, I called on the state universities and colleges (SUC) to take the initiative to undertake research for development ( R4D) because they know the conditions in their localities better. And let’s not forget the private colleges and universities that may offer more courses related to agribusiness and the technization of agriculture.

4. Banking sector — this sector includes private banks, cooperative and rural banks, and government banks such as the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Land Bank of the Philippines. It is also high time that we looked at the provisions of the Agri-Agra Act requiring banks to allocate at least 25% of their loanable funds to agriculture, as there may be a need to reduce this percentage to more realistic levels, but define stricter compliance measures. .

5. Scientists and researchers – although there are institutions that have scientists and researchers, such as CUS and government agencies, this sector can become more actively involved in providing and disseminating up-to-date and practical scientific solutions for rural and agricultural communities that need to greatly increase their food production.

6. Private sector — the private sector can provide much-needed support for the Philippines to achieve food self-sufficiency by investing in post-harvest and agricultural processing facilities, entering into projects with organized farmers, and introducing new technologies to the sector. agro-fishing sector, among many others.

7. Local Government Units (LGUs) — with the Mandanas shutdown, LGUs will begin to receive a greater share of national tax revenues, allowing them to expand their involvement in increasing agricultural production in their areas helping farmers and fishers to develop their business, financing and technology transfer/adoption.

8. Youth — the average age of farmers in the Philippines is between 56 and 60, so there is an urgent need to involve youth in agriculture. Young people are also more open to learning and using the latest technologies applicable to agriculture, including those of the fourth industrial revolution.

9. Indigenous Peoples (IPs) — IPs can be approached for agroforestry projects that will help meet their food needs and provide crops to their neighboring communities. This reduces “food miles” or the need to transport food over long distances.

10. Congress – as stated earlier, agriculture needs a budget of 250 to 290 billion pesos per year, and we need the cooperation of the House of Representatives to achieve this budget. Additionally, Congress can pass laws to support the achievement of food self-sufficiency, such as the establishment of R4D institutions for commodities like corn, root crops, among others.

11. Farmers and fishermen — no need to explain that. But for more effective collective action, farmers and fishers must be organized and cooperatives must be formed to operate as business entities.

So, we must mobilize for the whole nation to approach at least 11 groups or sectors. And to achieve this, President Marcos can convene a series of conferences and summits for food self-sufficiency involving most, if not all, of the sectors mentioned above.

As President Marcos brings the political will to solve the problems of the country’s agricultural sector and a larger budget for the sector, we must rally behind him because avoiding a food crisis is one of the most difficult tasks facing our nation. is faced today.

About Alexander Estrada

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