Retiree asks government to support corn farmers

A former vice president of banana-exporting multinational firm Unifrutti pleads for help for poor corn farmers who are being “killed” by illegal smugglers and importers as prices of the grain plunged to an all-time low of P9 per kilogram.

Retiree asks government to support corn farmers
Corn entrepreneur Rodolfo Pancrudo and grandchildren
Rodolfo Pancrudo, farmer-owner of Pancrudo Farm in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, asked the government not to allow the killing of corn farmers. 

This may be the ultimate plight of farmers as they do not enjoy corn support price, supposedly expected before from the National Food Administration, nor do they have post-harvest facilities to dry and store their harvests, according to Pancrudo.

Mechanical dryers and storage facilities should enable them to hold their sale of corn and wait until prices become more profitable, he said.

“Traders haggle for the lowest price and tell farmers, ‘Your corn is of low quality.’ That’s why farmers are forced to sell their corn even at only P9 per kilo because they need money.  Otherwise the harvest will just go to waste since there are no post-harvest facilities,” he said.

Pancrudo said while he is more fortunate because he is a retiree of Unifrutti, one of the world’s largest producer-exporters of fresh produce, corn farmers are not as fortunate.

“I am just more fortunate since I am more of an entrepreneur.  I have an integrated farm. It’s a kind of sustainable farming.  But I see farmers having a very difficult life. They are in a hand-to-mouth existence,” he said.  

Pancrudo Farm also has a piggery.  The farm uses hogs’ dung to feed a biogas facility and uses it for fertilizer. It also grows papaya as Pancrudo is a sub-contractor of multinational firm Del Monte.

“I hope other corn farmers may also become entrepreneurs.  But most of them are not learned. When I retired from my company, I went into farming just to practice my being an agriculture engineer. But many farmers run to me for these problems. I have to speak for them.”

The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. through president Danilo Fausto has been seeking an audience with the Department of Agriculture to discuss the plight of farmers in light of the Covid-19 health crisis. PCAFI is asking for an increase in import tariff of farm commodities such as rice to support local farmers.

For corn, the DA should at least prohibit imports to coincide with the harvest, the group said.

PCAFI member and Philippine Maize Federation Inc. president Roger Navarro said the government’s inaction on the plummeting corn prices may result in the collapse of the sector. 

“To my mind, this is not a good indication.  It tries to tell the people to keep quiet as it intentionally tries to hide the problem and the reality,” said Navarro.

PMFI asked the government to investigate possible corn smuggling.   “This leads us to assume that this coming corn is smuggled,” Navarro said.

Expected to arrive soon are 6,000 metric tons of corn for General Santos; 20,000 MT for Cagayan de Oro; 50,000 MT for Bicol; and 30,000 MT for Iloilo, the group said.

“These corn shipments will strike the fatal blow to the corn farmers who painstakingly harvested a huge 3.5 million tons, wet season crop,” Navarro said.

Pancrudo said farmers could hardly make money from gross earnings of P30,000 per hectare, against the production cost of P35,000 to P40,000 per hectare.

Support for fertilizers and good seed varieties are also important intervention Filipino farmers should get, he said.

“There will come a time Filipinos will no longer have [locally-produced] food.  All will be imported,” said Pancrudo. “Even a small amount of support for fertilizer will already be a [significant] help in raising yield.  But there is no such support.”

Topics: Unifrutti , illegal smugglers , Rodolfo Pancrudo , Pancrudo Farm
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