Dar asked to hold consultation with farmers and not come up with its own self-conceived plan

November 9,2020

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar was asked by a 58-signatory farmers’ groups to hold consultation with farmers and not come up with its own plans which has rendered failure in  implementing two-decade-old Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA).

   In a letter received on November 4 by DA, Dar was also asked by the 58 farmer-leaders to explain why  the Department of Agriculture (DA) refuses to implement trade remedies allowed by the World Trade Organization (WTO) and local laws addressing import surges and price depressions.

   DA’s failure to consult farmers is precisely the reason why there is “misallocation and misuse” of DA funds.

   “The absence of consultations is at the heart  of misallocations and misuse of funds by DA,” said the United Broilers Raisers Assn, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), and more than 50 other farmer-leaders.

   “DA’s plans, given the results, are certainly not for the stakeholders.  The law mandates that stakeholders be consulted in the formulation and implementation of AFMA.”

   Consultation should include budget requests which should be subject to transparency.

   The farmers’ groups lamented the non-implementation of Sections 38 to 45 of AFMA. These are among the provisions DA failed to implement:

  1. Provision of responsive business information and trading services that link farmers to market
  2. Creation of a national marketing umbrella to generate highest income to farmers
  3. National Information Network (NIN) to be set up one year from AFMA’s enactment in 1997.

            The NIN should provide industry data, similar to that being produced extensively by the United States DA (USDA). USDA extensively studies and reports even Philippines’ industry data.

“The NIN shall provide information and marketing services related to agriculture and fisheries which shall include the following: supply; demand; price and price trends; product standards for both fresh and processed agricultural and fisheries products; directory of, cooperatives, traders, key market centers, processors and business institutions.”

The NIN should also provide research information and technology generated from research institutions; international, regional and local market forecasts;  and resource accounting data.

“The NIN shall likewise be accessible to the private sector engaged in agriculture and fisheries enterprises,“ according to Section 45.

   On Dar’s battlecry that DA has to engage in “New Thinking,” DA should now look into why other countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia) thrived despite their World Trade Organization (WTO) membership, the farmer-leaders said.

   On the other hand, Philippine agriculture reels into further poverty as imports flood the market and kill farmers’ livelihood.

   The farmers’ groups said that DA’s plans in 2001-2004, 2011-2017, and 2018-2023 have not been consulted with the agriculture sector.

   “We have only come to know these AFMA programs upon  discovery of counsel as part of due diligence in preparation of a case,” the 58 farmers’ group confessed.

   DA’s plans all the years were made simply as “paper compliance” with the requirement of the Department of Budget and Management.

   In professional budget management, the farmer-leaders said budgets should have “clear performance targets and quantifiable and verifiable impact indicators and conduct of up-to-date monitoring.”

   Absence of data is another reason why there is disconnect between farmgate and retail  prices.  This happens for instance in rice where farmgate price is now down to P10 per kilo.  But consumers still pay for a high P38 to P45 per kilo in wet markets.

   “How can DA effectively plan without a data and information system? What will be the basis for its plans? How can stakeholders plan investments base on the realities of the supply and demand in an industry?”

   The farmer-leaders lamented that AFMA’s other major provisions have not been implemented:

  1. Strategic Agriculture and Fisheries Development Zone
  2. Agro-industry Modernization and Credit Financing Program
  3. Irrigation and Agriculture and Fisheries INfrastructure Support SERvices
  4. Trade and Fiscal Incentives

   DA also did not receive at all the P20 billion initial AFMA allocation and P17 billion yearly at least for 6 years since AFMA’s enactment.

   “You have spoken of rebooting the industry. The first step is to follow the law and implement AFMA,” said the 56 farmer-groups to Dar in a letter. “That is the only way to effectively gain the trust and respect of stakeholders.” Melody Mendoza Aguiba

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