9.7 million agri and fisheries food producers need urgent production support
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas today said the Department of Agriculture (DA) must clarify and release actual guidelines on how to avail the Php5,000 cash aid from the agency’s Rice Farmers Financial Assistance (RFFA) Program and Landbank of the Philippines’ Financial Subsidy to Rice Farmers (FSRF) program.
KMP said DA is keeping mum on how the agriculture department will provide cash aid and actual production support to farmers affected by the lockdown. “Our food security frontliners also need help. They need immediate production support and subsidies,” according to KMP leader Danilo Ramos.
Both the FSRF and RFFA are ongoing DA programs which covers farmers that till up to two hectares of land. “What about more farmers and farm workers that are not covered by these existing DA programs? How can they avail of cash aid and social amelioration from the government? They are also severely affected by loss of income and livelihood as a result of the prolonged ECQ.
According to President Rodrigo Duterte’s third report to Congress last Monday, the DA, as of April 8, has released an unconditional cash transfer to a total of 300,994 rice farmers out of the targeted 597,404 rice farmers. The Landbank also reportedly distributed unconditional cash transfer to 18, 495 qualified farmers out the 591, 246 targeted farmer-beneficiaries or those located in provinces not covered by the RFFA. “DA has a long way to go in aiding an estimate of 9.7 million farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk in need of assistance during the Enhanced Community Quarantine and beyond.”
“Five weeks into the lockdown, we are still getting numerous reports that farming households in rural barangays have yet to receive any form of assistance or relief from the government. These are valid grievances from farmers and fisherfolk whose livelihood were disrupted by the ECQ,” says Ramos.
DA has a whopping P31-billion budget for its ALPAS-COVID or Plant, Plant, Plant Program. KMP said based on agri Secretary William Dar’s recent pronouncements, DA is leaning towards massive promotion of urban and community gardening as an intervention to help ensure food availability. “While urban farming can help in the interim, it is not a viable long-term strategy to ensure food security. We must strengthen the domestic rice industry, increase our local rice productivity and do away with dependence on rice imports.”
“The government is projecting a prolonged pandemic. Health and nutrition must go hand-in-hand as these important socio-economic factors can be effective shields in our fight against COVID19,” the peasant leader added. ###