DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The network of farmers, scientists under Magsasaka at Siyentipiko para sa Pag-unlad ng Agrikultura (MASIPAG in Mindanao), has expressed concern on the decision of the Department of Agriculture to import more agricultural products amid the rice crisis that the country is facing.
“The Department of Agriculture’s plan to import more rice is apparently a band-aid solution and will not solve the roots of the rice-shortage that is lack of lands to the tillers, cartel-ridden rice trading, and weak post-harvest support and marketing. “Leo XL Fuentes MASIPAG Mindanao Regional Coordinator said.
It can be recalled that President Rodrigo Duterte has issued Administrative Order 13 last September 21 which streamlines the administrative procedures on the importation of agricultural products. The same AO which also removes the non-tariff barriers on the importation of rice as well.
AO 13 gives further authority to the National Food Authority (NFA) Council and the Department of Agriculture (DA) to adopt measures in a bid to tame the price spikes, and address the supply shortage of the basic agricultural commodities.
But Fuentes warned that such importation plan would only bind the country’s dependence to imports, a scheme which he said implemented during the Aquino and Arroyo administrations.
“They already lifted the minimum access volume restriction, thus allowing more and more imported rice which in effect will further the dependence of our country to imports. While Pinol’s administration does not veer away with that of his predecessors by allowing massive conversion of land to Big-agribusiness plantations like palm-oil and banana,” he stressed.
To illustrate his point, Fuentes said the Palm-Oil industry road-map set to convert 1 million hectares of land to oil-palm plantation where he said that 98 percent of which will be in Mindanao.
“If this government is sincere in providing food security to the country, import dependence must stop,” Fuentes said, adding that rice importation is part of the imposition of the World Trade Organization in our agricultural economy.
According to Fuentes, the import plan is subservient to neo-liberalism; that is to maintain a backward agriculture sector as characterized by being export-oriented and import-dependent.
He added that the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) recognizes that agriculture trade incurred deficit between imports and exports by USD 1.285 Billion in 2005 and USD 3.796 Billion in 2015. “The trend there is clear, that if we maintain such export-oriented and import-dependent economy, we are heading towards economic collapse.” Fuentes pointed out.
In 2009, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IASSTD) suggested that local food production and small-scale agriculture will be the way to ensure food security for the future.
“If this government is sincere, it must have a comprehensive food security plan. It must immediately legislate genuine agrarian reform and distribute lands to the tillers, put a moratorium on land and crop conversion as well as plantation expansion, scrap the palm-oil industry road map, provide sufficient support and appropriate technologies both in production, post-harvest and even at the marketing level,” he said. (davaotoday.com)