Food chamber urges gov't to focus on local production

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 1) — The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. is urging the Marcos administration to focus on local production amid food sufficiency problems.

“Let’s have our food production here. Several countries have stopped exporting their products because they are protecting their own people. If we don’t do it now, we are on our own. We have to do it as soon as possible,” PCAFI president Danilo Fausto told CNN Philippines’ The Exchange.

Fausto noted that one of the ways to address the food problem is by rationalizing imports.

“Rationalize importation. We have to import what is needed, not import more than what is needed and prevent cheap subsidized imports from competing with our local producers because that will discourage them from producing more. It has to be a profitable business,” he explained.

Fausto also called on the government to mobilize funds for agriculture.

“We have to mobilize the funds. We can securitize what is in the future. If all of us are singing the same tune, (like by saying) increase the budget of DA for 2023, but that will be (for) next year. The problem is this year,” he said.

One of the issues needing immediate solution is the rising costs of inputs for rice production.

In Nueva Ecija for example, rice farmers are now applying fertilizer, the cost of which has increased 300%. thus the need for subsidy, he said.

Fausto also pushed for a three-cropping season as another solution to the sufficiency problem. Rice planting in the Philippines, he stressed, occurs only during the wet season (around April-August) and dry season (around September-February.)

Farmers can be consolidated and clustered to have economies of scale, he added.

He also emphasized the important role of the private sector, noting that it accounts for 95% of total agricultural output. Given this, it is vital for the government to encourage more investment from such sector and give the stakeholders access to credit, he added.

The new administration saw President Bongbong Marcos himself taking the helm as Agriculture secretary, even if in temporary capacity. He said that his move would prove that his administration is taking issues concerning the agricultural sector seriously, and that it would help move things "quickly."

Marcos said in May that to address the looming food crisis, the country should increase its production and continue importation. 

READ: Bongbong Marcos: Food sufficiency, infrastructure among priorities of 'comprehensive' economic plan