By John Rizle L. Saligumba
DAVAO CITY — The Department of Agriculture blamed low supply brought about by crop conversion as the main cause in the price hikes in garlic and rice. Militant farmers, however, decried low goverment subsidy and rapid importation as the culprit of the current problems in agriculture.
“Lean months kasi, land preparation pa. By September, October, November, hopefully maka-harvest na tayo (We are on lean months and farmers are still on land preparation. Hopefully, we can harvest by September, October and November),” said Department of Agriculture Regional XI Director Remelyln Recoter.
Recoter also said that the Davao Region is not a “rice-producing region” which means there is no “rice-sufficiency.”
“Our region has only 50-55% sufficiency,” she said.
“Many nag shift ng crops, hindi naman pwede bawalan yung may-ari ng lupa kung saan siya kikita (Many [rice farmers] have shifted crops and we cannot stop land-owners from making a living),” said Recoter.
Pedro Arnado, spokesperson of the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Southern Mindanao, however, said that the supply woes are largely because of
“(T)he government has no strategic agricultural plan. Everyone can choose what to plant where, and peasants have no say it in because they do not even have land to till,” he said. “So if a landlord decides to export his rice, farmers have no say,” said Arnado.
Arnado said they are “dismayed at how the government blames farmers.”
“The small fraction of farmers who still have land are desperate because they receive no support from the government, not even farm to market roads, harvest facilities and control of farm gate prices,” he said.
Arnado said that farmers “have no choice but to plant what is perceived to be the market demand.”
“If you get successful planting a crop and incur debts in the process,
you have no assurance that your net income is sufficient enough to pay those debts. As such, even farmers with lands eventually lose their property to their capitalist financiers,” he said.
With regards to the price of garlic, DA’s Recoter said the region is not a “garlic-producing region” and that “consumers want bigger garlic sizes.”
Aides of a local wholesaler of garlic in Davao City’s Sta. Ana Avenue, said they are both selling imported and garlic bought from the Ilocos Region but costumers, many of whom are eatery and restaurant owners, ebuy impoted garlic because “they are easier to slice.”
“The native garlic are small and are produced in Batanes and the Ilocos. The big ones are imported,” she said.
But for Arnado, “We have native garlic which are also larger but the question is how has the government system helped garlic farmers instead of allowing imports that will eventually kill their livelihood and force them to shift crops.”
Recoter urges the public to “patronize locally produced garlic instead.”
However she also admitted that traders can freely decide which garlic to bring to the market and may choose based on “kung saan kikita sila (where they would get most profit).”
In an attempt to lower market prices, Recoter said their Agriculture Marketing and Development office is “trying to bridge potential supplier-cooperatives to local buyer-cooperatives.”
“If for example, a supplier in Ilocos sells for P180 per kilo then adds P20 for the freight costs and then the local buyer would add P20 for their profit, the total price per kilo of garlic would be P220, still P100 lower than the current P320 per kilo,” Recoter said. “Puputaktihin talaga yan (It will be swarmed [with buyers].”
But, Recoter said that it would still depend on two factors, “if there are suppliers and potential buyers.”
Meanwhile, Bayan Muna partylist representative Atty. Neri Colmenares in an emailed statement blamed the Aquino government for “paving the way for price manipulators to spike the prices of agricultural products like rice, garlic, ginger and even poultry products like chicken and pork.”
“NFA and DA officials, like Sec. Alcala should step down because of their inability to protect the people from the crippling price of agricultural products and even covering up for the hoarders by justifying the increases as a result of lean months or lack of supply, to the glee of price manipulators,” said Colmenares.
Colmenares who is also the House Senior Deputy Minority Leader said that “Alcala lied when he said in June of 2012 that we are already self-sufficient in garlic and officially declared that we are no longer importing garlic. He now admits that we imported garlic in 2012.”
Colmenares said that this June, “the DA announced that 29,000 tons of imported garlic arrived last April to meet the demand of 11,000 tons in the face of a shortfall in garlic supply which only amounted to 8,700 tons.”
“Despite these assurances, the DA failed to stem the spike in price of garlic. In reality we are far from self-sufficiency in rice and even in garlic because we have been importing large volumes of the said products up till now, to the detriment of developing our local agriculture” said Colmenares who demanded the resignation of DA officials “starting with Sec. Proceso Alcala.”
Colmenares said that “the government has been justifying exorbitant rates at the expense of the people.” (John Rizle L. Saligumba/davaotoday.com)