Farmers to presidential candidates: give priority to agriculture and food production

First COMELEC presidential debate

Farmers and food security advocates said presidential candidates must give priority to developing domestic agriculture and ensuring the food self-sufficiency and food security of the country.

According to Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, the annual average growth of agriculture fell from 2.9% (2001-2016) to 2.1% (2019) under the Duterte administration. “Claims that the agriculture sector growth significantly increased in the past five years are simply untrue. In fact, the local agriculture and farmers became even more vulnerable to extreme climate events of recent years.”

“We are an agricultural country. The majority of the population rely on agriculture and fisheries for livelihood. We expect to hear wholistic and comprehensive programs for land reform and land-use, food production and rural development. The next administration must do away with previous and existing neoliberal policies that wrecked havoc on our agriculture and productive forces,” says KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos as the first Comelec presidential debate is underway.

We want to see how the candidates will address and reverse these realities in PH agriculture:

Massive jobs loss in agriculture

Dwindling share of agriculture in the GDP

Slow average annual growth in agriculture

Increasing agricultural trade deficit

Lowest budget share for agriculture

Ramos said the domestic agriculture remain in crisis, growing at an average 2.1% in 2017 to 2019, its slowest pace after 70 years of growing at 3.5% annually on the average. In 2018, the country’s agricultural trade deficit was the largest in history, and in 2019 the Philippines began importing its staple food rice. All of these happened under Duterte’s watch. We need a reversal of these norm in agriculture, according to Ramos.

The budget for agriculture and agrarian reform averaged just a measly 3.6% of the total annual national budget from 2017 to 2019. This has been reduced further to 1.7% in 2020 and further fell to 1.6% for 2021. This is utter neglect of agriculture. “These challenges and actual conditions need concrete actions.”

Food security advocate Cathy Estavillo of Bantay Bigas and peasant women federation AMIHAN is among the reactors in the COMELEC presidential debate. Estavillo is also the national secretary-general of the Anakpawis partylist. ###

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