January 13, 2022
The proposed Bureau of Cooperative under the Department of Agriculture (DA) will play a pivotal role in consolidating fragmented farm lands to enable Philippines to achieve economies of scale and agro-industrial modernization.
Senator Richard Gordon said government should promote “cluster” farming or cooperative farming so large scale of land can be consolidated amid the agrarian reform’s land fragmentation.
“There is strength in number. Even in foreign policy, treaties are a result of equal bargaining strength. We should encourage cluster farming or cooperative farming. They do that in Del Monte,” Gordon said during the Philippines Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc.’s (PCAFI) Halalan 2022 Para sa Agrikultura.
“If farmers are disorganized, if you let them by themselves, business will not come in as there are no rules.”
PCAFI President Danilo V. Fausto, along with Alyansa Agrikultura led by Ernesto Ordonez, and three other farm-based groups, has been orienting 2022 election candidates on the plight of agriculture.
Also proposing recommendations through the online forum are Federation of Free Farmers Chairman Sec. Leonardo Q. Montemayor, National Scientist Dr. Emil Q. Javier, and Rice Watch Chair Hazel Tanchuling.
In order for agriculture services to be rendered to farmers, such as providing for them cost-efficient farm machineries, their organization is pertinent.
One of such way to organize farmers is for bigger farm companies to enter into contract growing agreements with small farmers.
“Contract growing in the private sector will formally integrate small farmers into the supply chain,” said Javier, also chairman of the Coalition for Agricultural Modernization (CAMP).
Gordon, a senatorial reelection aspirant, said the cooperative will be a way to protect farmers from exploitation of traders and middlemen who exploit farmers by paying the cheapest price.
He said a law does not need to be enacted for the cooperatives to be put up. The cooperative system has already been existing among successful groups such as the TADECO (Tagum Agricultural Devt. Co) or among sugar planters.
Gordon envisions the establishment of industrial parks for agriculture ventures such as the parks in Subic where enterprises enjoy tax incentives in order to flourish.
“The Department of Agriculture (DA) should create an atmosphere so farmers can sell their production and be supported with the extension. Private sector can fund the farmers so that farmers have the assurance of a market for their produce,” he said.
PCAFI and the four farm-based groups have also filed with the candidates the following recommendations:
- Allocation of at least 10% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) budget for agriculture which is just “fair” considering its GDP contribution of 10%. At present, the sector just gets 1.5% budget. Livestock and poultry contributes 27.7% to agriculture while it only gets 5.6% of the budget. Corn contributes 6.4%, but it only gets 1.7% of DA budget.
- Tariff collections should be used to develop the corresponding sector—Corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry tariff should be used to develop corn, fisheries, livestock and poultry sectors.
- The Safeguard Measures Act, Anti Dumping Act, among others, should protect local farmers from unfair competition from imports.
- National Irrigation Administration should be administered by DA for proper irrigation coordination.
- The Bureau of Agriculture Cooperatives should be created under DA
- Local government Units should allocate funds for agriculture extension as part of the proposed Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension System (PAFES) to ensure farmers get direct assistance on technology.
- Convergence of DA, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Science and Technology to promote food and beverage manufacturing
- Establishment of agro-industrial hubs and corridors
- Passage of Land Use Bill to preserve agricultural lands
- Diversification of agriculture production to invest more in horticultural and industrial crops, poultry, livestock, fisheries
- Developing biotechnology, food science, automation, digitalization to enhance productivity and competitiveness
- Regreening, watershed management, and agro-forestry implementation. (Melody Mendoza Aguiba)