Press Release
April 2, 2008


Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, said yesterday the government should offer more incentives to rural communities, especially farmers, in order to encourage them to produce more food.

Loren issued the statement in the face of reports that the world is facing a food shortage and rising food prices because of greater demand for food due to an expanding global population, especially in Asia. "In the Philippines we are already feeling the pains of a rice crisis," said Loren.

During a recent meeting with the senator in Iloilo City, agricultural producers and farmers' representatives said that farmers should be given more support by government, especially in infrastructures, such as irrigation, post-harvest and marketing facilities in order to enable them to produce more food crops.

Representatives of the Panay Federation of Sugarcane Farmers, Inc. (PanayFed), told the senator that while some four million hectares of land have already been distributed to farmers under the Agrarian Reform Law, the government has been unable to follow through with other support services such as irrigation and technical advice, thus hampering the expected increase in productivity arising from land ownership.

They said that instead of distributing more lands to farmers, the government should follow up on the land distribution by providing farmers with additional support to increase their agricultural production and get better prices for their crops through better marketing strategies.

While the sugar producers acknowledged that domestic demand for sugar has remained stable, the continuing increase in the price of "inputs" such as fertilizers, irrigation and access to financing have led to relatively lower yields and lower supply.

Thus the price increases in real terms of the sugar commodity through the years are relatively lower compared than those of other commodities. The sugar producers also called attention to the projected lifting of tariffs on sugar by 2010 that might adversely affect local sugar production. They proposed that Philippine sugar production should be included in the list of "high sensitivity" products to be entitled to tariff protection.

The sugar producers also expressed opposition to moves by certain quarters to amend the Biofuels Law or scrap it altogether because of the pending food shortage. The law encourages the production of sugar, coconut and other crops for conversion into bio-fuel to reduce the country's dependence on foreign fuel, especially gasoline, which also are demanding higher prices.

They said that the biofuels act encourages more agricultural production, enabling producers to get higher returns for their investments, thus enabling them to give higher wages to their workers, and also introduce more money into rural development.

The PanayFed members ask for more government support for the PanayFed Training Center that is helping rural communities to develop skills for more productive farming and processing and marketing of their products. Senator Legarda she also would ask the Technical Skills and Development Authority to provide assistance.

Senator Legarda asked the members of the federation to submit their position on the issues for the information of her committee. Aside from being chair of the economic affairs committee, Senator Legarda also heads the the Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development Committee of the Senate.

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