Press Release
July 3, 2020

Zubiri calls on DA, DTI to Support Agri Sector Amid Pandemic

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is urging the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry to provide strong support for the local agricultural sector as it tries to recover from losses incurred during the several stages of community quarantines brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"In these times, we should be buying Filipino--rice, livestock, local produce, sugar, and so on. The basic rule in food security is to protect the most vulnerable, and that means protecting not only our consumers but also our producers," he said. "The problem is that this basic rule gets derailed by trade practices that at times favor importation to the detriment of local producers."

"It boggles the mind, that we are still importing when our local producers are suffering from a lack of market. Our farmers are still trying to recoup from losing bulk buyers like restaurants, hotels, and resorts.

"If our supply chains were functional, then those local products could have easily been redirected for the benefit of our households. Local governments could have bought out the supply intended for bulk buyers, and distributed those to constituents with limited or zero income. But what happened was that our farmers had to keep competing with imports. Food processors continued to use raw materials and ingredients that are imported.

"I know that the DTI has taken the initiative of setting up 'buy local' campaigns like Go Lokal! and PinasMunaTayo. These are wonderful initiatives, except for the glaring absence of the agricultural sector. I hope that the DA can push for our local producers to be included in these campaigns. They need these platforms as much as any other industry.

"Beyond restricting imports, the DA and the DTI should also be providing logistical support to our farmers. The community quarantines have really hindered transportation, which has negatively affected the movement of produce. Our agricultural provinces are accumulating so much excess produce that's being left to rot. Sayang. Sana nadadala natin sa mga lugar na nangangailangan.

"The DTI could also provide processing machines to help our farmers maximize their produce and eke out some profit. The surplus of tomatoes up in the Cordilleras, for instanceŚpwede sanang gawing tomato paste or sun-dried tomatoes. We have to help our farmers find solutions. They have no income. They have limited mobility. It's on the national government to coordinate with LGUs and figure out what to do.

"If we leave our farmers on their own, many of them will likely stop farming altogether. That'll lead to skyrocketing food prices in the future. We cannot let that happen.

"This is not simply a branding issue of Filipino versus foreign food. This is an issue of lost income for millions of farmers who till small farms, backyard growers with as few as ten heads of swine or just hundreds of chicken. We should not forget that in the trade equation, the jobs of millions of farm workers matter. Our Filipino farmers face so many local problems, and they are batting zero against the undue influence of importers who are continuing their trade with no restrictions.

"This pandemic has pushed our farmers to their knees. This is not an exaggeration. Many are actually asking themselves if they should stop farming, whether in their small farms or in big plantations. Filipinos have high hopes for the farm sector, but we can't get anywhere without the commitment of our Agriculture and Trade chiefs."

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