Farmer-Scientist Network to Department of Agriculture: Masterminds behind liberalizing of Philippine agriculture to be blamed for food crisis and oversupply not farmers

January 17, 2023

by MASIPAG National Office

According to Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, the farmers themselves are to blame for their huge losses due to an oversupply of their crops such as cabbage and garlic. But decades of dependence on imported crops and liberalization of our local agriculture tell us otherwise.

“Blaming the farmers for this fiasco is a whole new level of gaslighting not only to the farmers but also to the Filipino people and an indirect affirmation, as far as Usec. Panganiban is concerned that the local agriculture is left for dead. Does it mean that the department of agriculture and the government has no power to create a market for them? To relocalize our food systems, which is our best shot for climate change mitigation and food insecurity?” said MASIPAG national coordinator Alfie Pulumbarit.

Panganiban further blamed the farmers in Batanes and Benguet whose overproduced crops are garlic and cabbage for “[n]ot thinking about whether they (farmers) have a market to sell it”. According to Panganiban, farmers should diversify their crops to provide them with substitutes.

“Crop diversification is highly welcome, especially to small organic farmers as it also ensures food security in their household and local community. But it is only effective and long-term sustainable if the necessary procedures and enabling policies are met. If Usec. Panganiban really knows what he is saying on this, he should be at the forefront in strengthening our local production and market.” Pulumbarit asserted.

One of MASIPAG’s programs that aim to revitalize the local market for sustainable and organic agriculture is the Local Marketing and Process Support (LMPS) which is anchored in crop diversification. Through LMPS, MASIPAG farmers are trained and capacitated by their fellow farmers and MASIPAG scientists in enterprise development, common service facilities and capital-build up. Within LMPS is the Masipag Farmers’ Guarantee System (MFGS) which is an inter-network farmer-to-farmer organic certification system that strengthens the direct relationship between local consumers and farmers.

Through LMPS and MFGS, organically produced crops and foods by farmers revitalizes the local market while also relocalizing our food. A strong local market backed by a strong and sustainable production no longer needs to be import dependent, contrary to what the eyed solution of the department of agriculture.

Who’s really to blame?

“The Department of Agriculture should first and foremost stop the further liberalization of agriculture by revoking and withdrawing the policies that enable it such as the rice liberalization law, our membership from the World Trade Organization, and to revise the amendments in the DOST-DA-DENR-DOH-DILG Joint Department Circular No.1 that favors the easy entry and cultivation of GMO crops such as Golden rice that ultimately promotes monocropping and chemical pesticides and inputs dependence. As long as these policies and mechanisms remain, Filipino farmers will again and again face problems. The department of agriculture manufactures their consent in participating in this doomed-to-fail agricultural system by leaving no space for alternatives such as sustainable organic farming.” Pulumbarit said. “Moreover, the department of agriculture has once again shown its true agenda of unsustainably and corporatizing agriculture by willfully ignoring pro-organic local farmer policies such as the amendments in Organic Agriculture Act of 2010 or the Participatory Guarantee System (PGS)”.

With MASIPAG farmers being one of the pioneer advocates and practitioners of PGS thru MFGS, MFGS and PGS share the same mechanisms in terms of utilizing both as a tool for improving local socio-economic and ecological conditions by encouraging small-scale production and product processing. In local markets, both PGS and MFGS help smallholders to have their products recognized as organic. In return, networks between consumers and smallholders are enhanced and their impetus for smallholders to expand their production is reinforced.

Aside from the issue of oversupply in garlic and cabbages, the Philippines is also facing a shortage in sugar, salt, and rice despite being an agricultural country geographically built to sustain a secured amount of production of these basic commodities.

“Small organic farmers and shareholders have already devised a sustainable agricultural production system which are both pro-farmer and pro-consumer, the only thing that is left now is for the government to wholeheartedly support it. Instead of blaming the farmers for this structural fiasco in agriculture, we challenge the department of agriculture, especially undersecretary Panganiban and the department of agriculture chief himself President Marcos Jr. for once to listen and support the efforts of the farmers in pushing for a meaningful and sustainable alternative to the failing dominant agricultural system that the DA has imposed to them.” Pulumbarit ended.