Farmers reiterate demand to augment agriculture budget and ensure food production

As Congress resumes deliberation on the Department of Agriculture budget, farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas highlighted the need for a higher agriculture budget. KMP said Congress can augment DA’s budget by up to P30 billion sourced from the NTF-ELCAC budget for 2022.

KMP said the country’s 3-year low rice inventory and the declining rice self-sufficiency is already a cause for alarm and must prompt DA to focus its efforts on reviving the rice industry impacted by the Rice Tariffication Law.

Based on the latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), as of August 1, the country’s nationwide rice inventory declined by 11.6 percent to 1.587 million metric tons (MMT) or 208,000 MT lower than the 1.786 MMT recorded same perion last year. This inventory was the lowest volume since the 1.168 MMT recorded in September 2018.

Rice self-sufficiency rate declined to 79.8 percent in 2019 compared to a slightly higher 86.2 percent in 2018. Even if the DA estimates the rice self-sufficiency rate for 2020 at 90 percent, this is still lower than pre-rice tariffication levels ranging from 95 to 97 percent. On the other hand, the country’s import dependency rate reached an all-time high of 20.2 percent in 2019.

KMP said a declining self-sufficiency rate results in a higher import dependency rate for rice, the main staple of Filipinos. The self-sufficiency rate shows how much local consumption is supplied by local production, while the import dependency rate indicates how much imports cover the local demand.

“PH is the sixth-largest consumer of rice, yet our nationwide rice stocks inventory keeps falling year after year. We only have the Rice Tariffication Law to blame for this. The pandemic and economic crisis drove millions into worsening hunger. Now more than ever, the DA must boost local production and ensure food security for all,” says KMP chairman emeritus and Anakpawis chairperson Rafael Mariano.

“It is not enough then there is available food. The government must ensure the stable situation of our food security frontliners – farmers and fishers, and the food security of lockdown-fatigued Filipinos,” Mariano concluded. KMP said it will propose a P15,000 production subsidy measure in Congress this month.

We must push the government to allocate more for agriculture and do away with its irrelevant spending, case in point — the Office of the President’s scandalous realignment of some P10.3-billion for cruise ports, bat cave, convention center, clubhouse, among other non-essential projects. ###

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