As an agricultural country, it is ironic that we are the world’s number one importer of rice, our staple food. Our food producers, farmers and fisher folk are among the poorest and marginalized sectors. In fact, being a farmer is almost equivalent to poverty, making farming unattractive and discouraging profession for the youth even for the children of farmers and fishers.
The song ‘Magtanim ay ‘Di Biro’ perfectly describes farmers’ plight – landlessness and displacement due to various “development” projects and land use conversion, high cost of production, limited government subsidy, usury, low cost of agricultural products and bankruptcy among others. These problems have been there for decades affecting not only the livelihood of farmers but also the country’s food security. While previous and present administrations have implemented various food security programs, especially on rice, nothing much has changed.
The Department of Agriculture recently appointed James Reid as its Food Security Ambassador tasked to “inform the public on the main advocacies of the Department specifically its campaign on ensuring sustained food security, food accessibility and affordability; and encourage the youth and other advocates on the important roles of farmers and fishers, their hard work, and their valuable contributions to the country.”
However, DA’s programs under Plant, Plant, Plant are nothing new but recycled market-driven and neoliberal policies which led to the current state of the sector and put our food producers in deeper poverty and hunger. The decades of agricultural liberalization devastated the local agriculture sector. With the implementation of the Rice Liberalization Law, the government put the country’s food security at greater risk.
The attainment of food security relies on resolving the classic problems faced by our food producers and not on celebrity ambassadors. DA should implement drastic policy reforms. Agricultural production should be strengthened through provision of adequate production support and subsidy to farmers and fishers for both pre and post-harvest. Genuine land and fisheries reform should be implemented to ensure that our food producers’ welfare as well as their sources of livelihood is protected and preserved.
On the other hand, James Reid is facing a challenge. As he decided to take on the role as ambassador, he should deepen his knowledge in the agriculture sector and understand the struggle of farmers and fishers in order to effectively use his voice to support our food producers. ###
AMIHAN National Federation of Peasant Women