Incoming Agrarian Reform Secretary Conrado Estrella III on Thursday shot down a suggestion by the outgoing DAR chief that the price of rice can be brought down to P20 a kilo as early as the second quarter of 2023 through a “mega farm” that would consolidate production.
Estrella said farmers told him the farm gate price cannot be lower than P10, which would go up to P28 at the retail level.
“I don’t think it is [possible] In the very near future, it’s not possible,” he said of the P20 target.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the House of Representatives committee on ways and means expressed hope that the incoming administration will ensure that “marginal farmers” or small coconut farmers—who are not members of coconut farmer associations—will still be able to benefit from the P75-billion Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund, which was created last year under Republic Act No. 11524.
“There are two areas that are not very well-articulated in the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, which is the guiding blueprint for the use of the Coco Levy Trust Fund,” Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, the panel’s chairman, said.
“One is marginal or small-scale farmers, who are the poorest of the poor, both nationwide and as a subsector of the coconut industry. The second area of concern is crop diversification and inter-cropping, which is the best way to make coconut farmers more profitable and productive, peso-per-peso,” Salceda said.
Salceda said he hopes that the incoming Marcos administration will be open to “tweaking” the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan, which was approved by President Duterte under Executive Order No. 172, s. 2022, which he signed June 8 this year.
Albay, which Salceda represents, has 277,000 coconut farms, making the coconut sector one of the largest sources of employment in the province.
“I have recently had a consultation on the agriculture sector early this week with key agriculturists, including national scientists, agricultural economists, agri-engineers, and others,” Salceda said, referring to discussions he has had during a UP Los Banos convocation, where he was keynote speaker this week.
“We have come to the conclusion that the best way to lift coconut farmers out of poverty is to diversify their cropping, so that they are not so vulnerable to the price [cycles] of the sector. Estimates suggest that 50 percent of coconut farmers fall below the poverty line. More than double the national average. So, to lift the coconut industry includes lifting the coconut farmers out of poverty.”
In his keynote address, Salceda called for agricultural modernization and a “Second Agricultural Revolution” as “crisis-proofing” for the Philippines.
During the forum, Salceda warned that a potential global economic crisis could come if the US decides to dramatically address inflation with monetary policies similar to those pursued during the early 1980s.
Such measures to bring inflation down would be “calamitous” to the global economy.
“So, we better prepare. And there is only one sector that can absorb all the excess liquidity in the world. And regardless of what happens in the world, people have to eat,” he said.
“You must first make sure people have something to eat. The rest follows,” he added, saying that agricultural modernization will be key to preparing for these “dark clouds.”
Salceda pointed out that the main problems in the Philippine agriculture sector are that there is not enough good irrigation and water management in the country, and that resources and government support are not devoted to the proper sectors. Salceda argued that the country has devoted too much spending on palay and not enough on other crops where the country holds a competitive advantage, such as corn, banana, and other high-value sectors.