In the News: Agri goods import plan, a ‘band-aid’ solution – Masipag

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A network of farmers and scientists the 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 a band-aid solution and will not solve the roots of the rice-shortage that is the landlessness of the tillers, cartel-controlled rice trading, and weak post-harvest support and marketing, “Leo XL Fuentes MASIPAG Mindanao Regional Coordinator said.

It could 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 also removes the non-tariff barriers on the importation of rice as well.

AO 13 gives further authority to the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) to adopt measures in a bid to tame the price spikes, and address the supply shortage of basic agricultural commodities.

But Fuentes warned that such importation plan would only worsen the country’s dependence on imports, a scheme which, he said, was 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 on imports. While Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol’s administration does not veer away with that of his predecessors by allowing massive conversion of land by big -agribusiness plantations like palm-oil and banana,” he stressed.

To illustrate his point, Fuentes said the Palm-Oil industry road-map is set to convert one million hectares of land to oil-palm plantation, 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 on our agricultural economy.

According to Fuentes, the import plan is subservient to neo-liberalism to maintain a backward agriculture sector characterized by being export-oriented and import-dependent.

He added that the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) recognizes that agricultural trade incurred a deficit of 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)