Tuesday, 8 April 2008

DA lauds support of agribusiness for P43.7-B food plan

Marvyn N. Benaning
The Manila Bulletin

The Department of Agriculture (DA) expressed gladness yesterday over what it called the full backing extended by farm stakeholders and agribusiness groups to the P43.7-billion package of intervention programs that President Arroyo announced earlier at the National Food Summit held at the Clark Special Economic Zone.

Known by its acronym FIELDS program, the package was drawn up by the DA and Malacañang to enable the country to come to grips with high global rice prices as many rice exporting nations have reduced their exports to shore up their own inventories.

FIELDS stands for Fertilizer, Irrigation and infrastructure, Education and training of farmers and fisherfolk, Loans, Dryers and other post-harvest facilities, and Seeds of the high-yielding hybrid varieties.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap hailed the support extended by the participants which, he said, is needed to sustain the country’s agricultural growth and guarantee the nation’s food security.

The FIELDS backers submitted their recommendations to Mrs. Arroyo and Yap on how to improve the productivity and profitability of agriculture and fisheries.

The groups that supported FIELDS are the Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization, Inc. (Philfoodex) led by its president, Roberto Amores; the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), led by its chairman emeritus Ambassador Donald Dee; Philmaize, represented by Rosalie Ellasus; the Philippine Association of Broiler Integrators represented by Rita Palabyab; the Philippine Fishing Federation represented by Alonzo Tan; and the Philippine Vegetable Council under Lyndon Tan.

Yap shrugged off criticisms about his failure to prevent the rice crisis, which was exacerbated by the dependence of the National Food Authority (NFA) on imported rice, with the country importing 1.9 million metric tons (MT) last year.

The secretary said he had alerted the cabinet about the global food trends, prompting Mrs. Arroyo to order the cabinet in December 2007 to come up with a comprehensive program to cushion the effects of rising food prices on Filipino consumers and farmers.

Kilusan ng Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairman Rafael Mariano said they have noted the upward price movement of rice for several years now but that the NFA has not given farmers a good deal, insisting on the old farmgate prices that have meant losses for producers.

After the cabinet meeting on Dec. 27, 2007, Yap said President Arroyo directed the DA to hold a food summit to fine-tune the government’s rural development thrusts until 2010.

He said he held a series of regional and sectoral consultations before the summit to gather support for a concerted plan to allow agriculture and fisheries to survive and grow.

The initiatives under the FIELDS program are:

  • P500 million for fertilizer support from the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF), with special focus on the use of organic fertilizers.
  • P6 billion for irrigation, with the goal of rehabilitating all irrigation systems that need to be repaired or rehabilitated by 2010.
  • P6 billion for farm-to-market roads and other rural infrastructure like roll-on roll-off (RORO) ferry terminals.
  • P5 billion for training of farmers on new technologies and research and development (R&D) on how to increase yields and lower production costs. Of this amount, P2 billion will be used for R&D and P1 billion each for capacity building programs, trainers training, and the agriculture and fisheries education system.
  • P15 billion in credit for farmers, fisherfolk, and other small rural borrowers, on top of the P5 billion Mrs. Arroyo earlier ordered the Land Bank to make available to rice farmers.
  • P2 billion for dryers and other post-harvest support like storage facilities.
  • P9.2 billion for hybrid and certified seed production and subsidies until 2010, of which P6.5 billion will be for certified seeds and P2.7 billion for hybrid seeds. The target is to plant certified seeds in 600,000 hectares this year and hybrid seeds in 900,000 hectares over the 2009-2010 period.

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