Press Release
September 26, 2010

Says agro-industrialization key to food security

The hard-working carabao may soon need a push-button plowing machine as back up to further improve its performance in the field and achieve food security.

Senator Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri has filed Senate Bill 2478 or An Act Promoting the Agricultural and Fisheries Mechanization Development in the Country. The bill seeks to modernize production from farm to market. It also supports the promotion and use of advance technology in research and development in agriculture and fisheries.

"We cannot satisfy domestic demand even for rice, our staple food. Moreover, our annual deficit of staple food is widening since production grows only to 3.58% while consumption rises to 4.59%. Hence, food imports that eat our foreign currency reserves continue to soar," Zubiri, the Senate's resident agriculturist, explained.

The National Food Authority has warned of an impending rice shortage if the government does not import rice by the last quarter of this year. It said that the government should at least buy 1 million metric tons due to projected shortfall of as much as 3.2 million tons.

The DA, moreover, has reported low production due to many factors including the El Nino phenomenon last year. Crop production dropped 6.15% while livestock and poultry sub-sectors rose only minimally. In the first quarter of 2010, agriculture contracted by 2.84% and farm gate prices rose 5.72%.

World Bank research also shows that agriculture and fisheries fail to benefit rural households even as half of total population and 69.7% of Filipinos in the productive ages of 15-64 years live in rural areas. It also found out that 44% of farmers and almost 50% of fishermen are poor. They earn incomes below the Annual Per Capita Poverty Thresholds, as follows: P14,906 average nationwide; P17,035 in urban areas; and P14,123 in rural areas.

"Weak agriculture and fisheries affect consumers, producers and government alike. Consumers pay high prices while producers face low productivity, high wastage and low income. It also encourages smuggling that exacerbates the problem," Zubiri lamented.

Zubiri also pointed out that rice production in Japan has reached 6.7tons/ha with high mechanization level of 7hp/ha while China produces 5.36 tons/ha with 3.88 hp/ha mechanization level. The Philippines, in contrast, produces only 2.64 tons/ha with mechanization level of only 0.56hp/ha.

"We have the lowest mechanization level in Asia. The proposed bill will mark the agro-industrialization in the countryside and, in the process, raise production and incomes," the Bukidnon solon said.

SB 2478 proposes the adoption of an Agriculture and Fisheries Mechanization (AFMech) Law to:

a) fix the implementing structure within the DA and LGUs and its inter-agency collaboration so that farm mechanization support services shall be effectively and efficiently delivered down to the barangay level;

b) strengthen machinery testing and evaluation, standards development and enforcement and monitoring through accreditation and registration system to ensure the provision of high-quality machinery and equipment; and

c) strengthen local manufacturing to reduce investment costs and establish agri-fishery machinery service centers in key production areas for custom plowing, harrowing, harvesting, drying, milling and other services which may be owned and operated by registered farmers cooperative and associations.

"Lahat ng rebolusyon sa mundo ay nagsimula sa gutom. We should bear in mind that rice is a political commodity. Hunger is the reason that people launch a revolution. A law must be passed to consolidate, integrate and strengthen all existing policies and programs towards food security," Zubiri said.

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