Attention to agriculture | Inquirer Opinion

Attention to agriculture

/ 05:24 AM September 07, 2018

It’s been several months since we started noticing that regular soda has bizarrely vanished from the menu of our favorite fast-food joints. While the sugar craving has made the population slightly more irritable at rush hour, the shortage manifests a more serious turmoil in the agriculture sector.

Now that other basic commodities like rice and the ever-reliable galunggong have also grown scarce, we can no longer ignore the alarming food crisis, and more importantly, we can no longer turn our backs on agriculture.


The food shortages and price hikes are a multifaceted puzzle that demands the attention of various sectors.

First, our agricultural and economic agencies need to end their finger-pointing and focus instead on formulating remedies that are more than just band-aid solutions. These agencies have been scrambling to respond to the shortages with eleventh-hour decisions to import more of our food staples.


Importing is a highly debated move that has its own merits and demerits. In certain cases, such as regarding rice, it’s sadly inevitable. But, ultimately, importation does not address the more persistent issues that hinder our own farmers and fisherfolk from being at their most productive, both as a sector and as individual earners.

We can blame the usual suspects: our position as an archipelago, the lack of arable land in the country, our vulnerability to typhoons and other natural disasters. Still, these natural factors can be effectively managed if only our farms and fisheries have maximized access to physical and economic infrastructure.

Physical infrastructure includes well-designed and -maintained irrigation, roads  and transport facilities, and flood control. Economic infrastructure, meanwhile, includes Filipino-oriented trade policies, support for rural cooperatives, access to markets, technical assistance for farmers and fisherfolk, and rural credit options that are more appropriate for their financial capacity.

Our agricultural producers continue to lag because these types of support are either missing or not sufficiently popularized among them, the intended beneficiaries.

As we demand better solutions from the government, it’s also essential to recognize that other sectors of society can help revitalize agriculture in the Philippines. The business sector is obviously a key influencer in this landscape. Now is the time for players along the supply chain to explore more just and more inclusive ways of doing business particularly with agricultural producers.

In Bukidnon, for example, major food companies have opted for outgrower schemes or contract farming instead of traditional land leasing models. Outgrower contracts empower farmers to cultivate their own lands so they can produce goods specified by their partner companies.

This means that the farmers have an assured market, while the buyer-companies have guaranteed supply.


Another potentially influential sector, though often overlooked when talking about agriculture, is the academe. There is very little regard for farming and fishing in school curricula and academic discussions. It is no surprise that these industries are greatly underappreciated or ignored outright, especially in terms of career choices.

Academic leaders have lamented that even with free tuition programs and scholarships for Aggie students, the number of enrollees in this area still continues to be dismal. Some of those who do take Aggie courses are only doing so in order to get jobs abroad.

This is a pity, because at a young age, Filipinos are taught that our rich lands and seas are our nation’s lifeblood, our pride. If only this appreciation for agriculture had been cultivated beyond elementary school textbooks, we could be producing more professionals in the agricultural sciences, agricultural engineering, agricultural economics, and agricultural policymaking by now—and these professionals could be aiding this vital sector in times of crisis much like what we’re having now.

That, and we could be rearing a generation with a sense of stewardship toward our pastoral resources, instead of a tunnel-vision focus on modern industries.

Beyond the surge of imports being brought in to fill the holes in our food supply, we need to look into deeper, more sustainable solutions for our agriculture sector. While the government is still the primary force that shapes this sector, we ourselves can make conscious contributions, too—as entrepreneurs, as academics, as students, and, yes, as individual consumers deciding where or what to eat for dinner.

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