KMP: Increase agri budget, aid farmers vs importation, inflation, typhoons

KMP: Increase agri budget, aid farmers vs importation, inflation, typhoons
In time for the plenary deliberation of the proposed 2022 Department of Agriculture (DA) budget, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) led a protest in front of the House of Respresentatives to reiterate its demand for greater allocation to local food production and to aid local and small farmers. 

“Food importation increased, food prices shot up, rice stocks dipped, typhoons destroyed crops — retaining a paltry budget for agriculture will be the last nail in the coffin for millions of farmers at sa ating lahat na kumakain,” KMP Chairman Emeritus and Anakpawis National President Rafael Mariano says. 

The farmer leader appealed to lawmakers to help protect Filipino farmers from consecutive tragedies by increasing the agriculture budget.

The DA estimated that farmers suffered P1.3 billion-worth of losses from typhoons Jolina and Kiko. Up to five more tropical typhoons are expected to hit the country until December as PAGASA warned that La Nina may begin this October.

“The current regime is set to leave a more food insecure Philippines. Si Duterte ang pinakamalalang bagyo, pinakamasamang peste sa magsasakang Pilipino. Isa sa apat na pagkain sa bansa na ang imported,” Mariano declares.

Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data reveal that food import dependency jumped from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 24.9 percent in 2020. Food self sufficiency likewise slumped from 87.1 percent in 2015 to 83 percent in 2020. 

Meanwhile, food inflation for August 2021 reached 6.5 percent, with price increases on meat, vegetables, and fish contributing most. 

“Farmers are slapped left and right as their incomes are cut by increased imports, while their expenses are burdened by hastened food inflation,” the peasant leader stressed. “Add to this the typhoons, cartels, and lack of government support and regulations – bugbog-sarado na ang magsasaka.”

More affordable food prices, used to justify increased food imports, did not materialize as the annual food inflation recorded for 2020 hit 2.7 percent. This is nearly double of the 1.5 percent annual food inflation in 2015.Inflation also disproportionately affects the poor; such as 31.6 percent of farmer households below the poverty threshold, the highest incidence among all sectors.

Mariano supported the appeal of several lawmakers and Agriculture Secretary William Dar himself for increasing the budget of the agency. “The P28.1 billion proposed allocation for the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF ELCAC) could be realigned to the DA to fund direct aid and subsidies for farmers,” Mariano pointed out. In contrast, Secretary Dar requested an additional P30 billion or more for the DA.

“We will remain vigilant whatever amount is allocated for agriculture and Filipino farmers,” Mariano ended. #

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