GREEN MINDED: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today

President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa complex earlier this week. Out of the more than nine thousand word speech of Duterte he only mentioned the word ‘agriculture’ once.

Duterte’s priority was clearly reflected on his speech, paying less attention to vital sectors such as the Philippine agriculture. For the record he mentioned the words ‘girlfriend’ thrice and cursed words were noted twenty three times on that speech.

Though he highlighted two important industries in Philippine Agriculture: palay or rice and the other one is the coconut, yet fell short on the solutions. Both of these agricultural industries are in poor state as the past and present administrations’ programs and policies were unsustainable, corrupt-ridden and outright moronic.

Let us start with Duterte taking pride that he ratified RA 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law, which is best fitting to be called “Rice Liberalization Law” for it is not just about tariffs but a policy on liberalizing our rice industry.

Prior to the ratification of RA 11203, we already predicted its harshest impacts to Filipino farmers. Our prediction was quite accurate, prices of Palay dropped after Rice Liberalization Law was enacted. Farmers are suffering very-low prices of palay that is around P12-14/kilo, while production cost in December 2018 data of Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) was pegged at P12.42/kg. Simple math can solve how our rice farmers are.

The Duterte administration is claiming that it is difficult for us to compete with Vietnam, since our production cost is high. While it is true, yet the administration failed to look into the details the reason for this high production cost.

According to data from UP Los Baños which Department of Agriculture pushed in 2009, the income distribution in the rice economy are as follows: Land Rental 22%, Traders 30%, Dryer and Miller 20%, Chemical Input and Land Preparation 18% and only 10% is the farmer’s share.

Now if we are going to compare it with Vietnam who implemented a land reform, the supposed land rental is automatically subtracted to the overall cost of production yielding 22% less in the production cost. In terms of government subsidies the suppose Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) or the money being collected from tariffs of rice imports that is around P10 billion pesos or around USD 90 million a year is dismal as compared to government subsidies given by Vietnamese government that is around USD 1 billion a year, much less than that of Thailand that is around USD 7 billion a year.

With such failed and moronic agriculture programs, it is unsuprising to see Duterte on his SONA paying less attention to agriculture, as you cannot talk something that you are not familiar with or you failed to do.

The past three years of Duterte is already a failure in providing land to the farmers and sufficient food to the Filipino people. If the policies of the Duterte regime will continue for his remaining three years this will further the bankrupt state of Philippine agriculture.

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