The 1.6% growth in the agricultural sector is no reason to celebrate, according to farmers, as this mere statistic does not reflect the actual and real situation of millions of farmers and productive sectors in agriculture.
“First of all, the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Secretary William Dar cannot capitalize on this figure to paint a picture of agriculture resiliency. This supposed growth is negligible and has no tangible effect and impact on the overall state of agriculture and livelihood of farmers and food producers. The entire agriculture sector is facing a worsening crisis. Secretary Dar and DA only want to justify the Plant, Plant, Plant program, and the approval of the Agriculture Stimulus Package worth P66-billion. The country is now in a technical recession — practically an affirmation of the decades-old chronic economic crisis brought about by the government’s neoliberal policies,” says KMP chairperson Danilo Ramos.
“There is a steady slowdown of growth in agriculture under the Duterte administration. Local agriculture has been in a slump for three consecutive years. The annual average growth in agriculture from 2017 to 2019 is at 2.2% which is starkly lower than the 3.5% average agriculture growth for the past 70 years. The latest 1.6% agri growth announced by PSA is even much lower and underscores further weakening of the agriculture. In 2019, palay and sugarcane posted biggest the slump: -8.9% for sugarcane and -5.9% for palay. For Q1 this year, agriculture growth declined by 0.4 percent. This was due to a slump in main staples and grains, and slow down in the production of livestock and poultry due to ASF and bird flu, respectively. The contracting fisheries sector is also unlikely to recover soon. This situation was partly due to the effects of lockdown in March to April, and mainly a manifestation of an agriculture sector in shambles.”
“The worsening job loss in agriculture can also be attributed to the Duterte administration, particularly due to the passage and implementation of the Rice Liberalization Law. Almost 1.4-million jobs in agriculture were lost from 2017 to 2019, unprecedented in PH history. This record is the most agricultural jobs lost in a given 3-year period for the past 21 years. The pandemic is also expected to further exacerbate job loss and unemployment in agriculture.”
However the NEDA and the Department of Finance attempt to make the Rice Liberalization Law superficially acceptable, the fact remains that rice farmers lost a minimum of P87-billion in income due to RA 11203.
The worsening negative impact of rice liberalization for farmers and food producers is also evident.
The Duterte administration also allotted a chronically low budget for agriculture and agrarian reform.
Even worse, most of these funds are often being funneled into corruption, as shown in the latest fertilizer scam,” the peasant leader added.
“Naghahanda tayo sa mas malubhang krisis at kahirapan. The government must empower and wholly support its productive sectors — workers and farmers, and not merely rely on palliatives and acronyms — BAYANIHAN, PROGRESO, CREATE, ALPAS-COVID, etc. in resolving the crisis and cushioning the heavy impacts of the pandemic,” Ramos concluded.