November 15, 2021
Corn farmers are banking on the creation of a proposed Philippine Corn Development Authority so as to restore aid to the “orphaned” sector since the ratification of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).
The corn sector used to have at least P1.6 billion Department of Agriculture (DA) budget, according to Philippine Maize Federation Inc. (PMFI) President Roger V. Navarro during the “Halalan sa 2022 Para sa Agrikultura” organized by the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture & Food Inc. (PCAFI).
However, the budget, mainly through the DA-attached National Food Administration’s (NFA), has been eliminated with the passage of RTL. The abolition of the functions of NFA consequently abolished government’s buying program of farmers’ corn harvest.
“The budget for corn before was only P60 million. Then the budget increased last to P1.6 billion. But the industry is worth P100 billion. There is a very big gap. Then the RTL was passed, the RTL even became rice-centric,” Navarro said during the PCAFI Forum.
Audience during the PCAFI Forum is Senator Francis N. Pangilinan, vice presidential candidate.
Pangilinan, also Senate Committee Chairman on Agriculture, said he will look into the possibility of first drafting an executive order creating the government corn agency.
The EO will be a temporary instrument until creation of the corn agency becomes official through a congressional legislation.
“We will study it. We can issue an EO to convene the corn development board and provide funding for it while the bill is being debated,” he said.
There are many issues confronting the corn industry which should be addressed by a higher authority such as a corn development agency.
For one, the local corn sector cannot grow to its maximum capacity as it is only allowed to import. But it is not allowed to export and take advantage of seasonal high price of corn in the world market.
“Corn was the first commodity to be liberalized under the WTO (World Trade Organization). But it was only importation that was liberalized for corn and corn substitutes. The government has never really agreed to allowing us to export. (Even worse), they have plans to make corn to have zero tariff,” he said.
A serious concern for the corn sector is post harvest facilities which the Philippines lack.
“There are two croppings for corn. The first cropping has the biggest production of 65% for the (crop year)). That is from August September October. But since it is rainy, and we don’t have the post harvest facilities, there is so much loss. The February to March harvest is just fine because it can be dried on the highway. But we need to save the first season harvest,” said Navarro.
Unfortunately, while the Department of Public Works and Highways has a huge budget of P700 billion for infrastructure, its projects do not really involve post harvest facilities for the corn industry.
The same absence of post harvest facilities compels government to have a program for buying corn. This program for buying all farmers’ harvest for the first cropping is already a practice in Thailand.
“In Thailand, the government sequesters all corn production, and so you will see warehouses saying ‘Property of the Government of Thailand,’” Navarro said.
A corn agency is also important since the Philippines needs to attend to many needs in order to be self reliant. For one, there is hardly a local corn seed growing industry as many seed growers are multinational companies, Navarro said.
Also, farmers find it difficult to supply the needed fertilizers for their crops since fertilizers’ cost is very high. Navarro cited that government-owned fertilizer companies including the Philippine Phosphate and Atlas Fertilizer are no longer operating.
He cited that the cost of fertilizers urea, potash, and Triple 14 is now very expensive at around P2,000 per bag. Thus farmers find them prohibitive to use.
Pangilinan committed to support the corn industry, recognizing its unique role in the livestock sector.
“Corn plays a very important role in feeds. And feeds play an important role in livestock. So we should really look after the needs of the corn sector,” Pangilinan said.
PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto said earlier cited the significance of the feed industry which is comprised substantially by corn and corn substitutes.
Fausto said that the government should allocate a budget of at least P112.5 billion for livestock and poultry. And yet, feed also represents a big cost of input for livestock and poultry.
“The feed industry is a P510-billion industry. Assuming two-thirds (67 percent) of feeds go to livestock and poultry, that represents P340 billion,” he said.
Assistance in post harvest facilities is what will significantly improve farmers’ lives.
“We make our farmers become mendicant. We don’t bring them respect. But we will put dignity to the people as we elevate our assistance in infrastructure,” said Navarro.
With post harvest facilities, the corn sector will be stabilized.
“We will have a stable price, stable supply of corn, and stable income for farmers,” Navarro said. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)