GREEN MINDED: Thoughts on Philippine Agriculture Today

As the plot thickens in the senate with the unfolding of the pork-barrel melodrama, poor Juan Dela Cruz suffers from surging prices of spices, garlic in particular.

The price of a kilo of garlic skyrocketed to almost 400 pesos for almost a month now. We witnessed the pungency of this corrupt-ridden government, as our plate became less savory.

Shortage!

The Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that on the first quarter of 2014 alone, garlic prices had a 213 percent spike, claiming that the surge was due to the “lower supply of imported garlic and a higher demand from traders.”  The solution of DA to such shortage is to have another batch of garlic importation.

Meanwhile the National Garlic Action Team created by President Aquino proposed more importation, suggesting the approval of 932 applications for garlic importation.

Importation and Free-Trade?

Apparently, both DA and National Garlic Action Team adhere to importation as a solution, and a surveillance of suspected hoarders. Such solution clearly shows the priority of the government not to build a sustainable local garlic industry and rather resort to importations being a member of World Trade Organization (WTO) and Asian Free Trade Association (AFTA).

WTO and AFTA being economic-cooperation organizations advocate free trade. At the facade, free-trade looks good, it provides venue for “free-competition” and specialization in production among nations.

However, membership in WTO and AFTA includes economic impositions placing developing countries like the Philippines in a disadvantageous position—destroying our economy. It is impossible for a carabao-driven farm implements to compete freely against mechanized farming.

This being the case provides a cheaper price for exported goods, considering that majority of our agricultural products being exported were plain raw-materials, while importing costly processed goods or  high value crops like garlic whose price were being dictated by first world countries like Taiwan. Trade between a super-power country and a developing country like us is not free at all.

Sustainable Agriculture

Beyond those band-aid solutions being offered by DA, National Garlic Action Team and the Aquino administration that further importations and pay lip-service to investigations, it is more than timely now to break the chains of the import dependent and export oriented economy.

There is a need to sincerely support our local garlic producing farmers in ilocos and Central Luzon. We need to assert comprehensive and sustainable agricultural policies through genuine land reform, scientific and mass-oriented support system for our farmers.

The crises of trade-liberalization and the myth of free-trade hinder the sustainability of our agricultural economy, leaving our plates less and less savory. We have to remember this– sautéing without garlic is like having sex without the orgasm.

 


Leo XL Fuentes is a backyard gardener in Compostela Valley that advocates organic and sustainable agriculture. He earned his degree in Agriculture at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.

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