The government should focus on improving the farmers’ income with better irrigation systems and access to new farm technologies to increase the country’s agricultural production, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.
NEDA Secretary General Arsenio Balisacan said the new strategies should be the basis of a package of policy reforms and programs, which will guard the economy against future spikes in food prices.
“The only way to increase agricultural productivity is to shift the paradigm. The focus should be on the farmer’s income. How much the farm earns per hectare, or per labor or per farmer, as opposed to how much he produces,” Balisacan said.
Many farms in the country are rain-fed and farmers suffer losses during the dry season. Efforts to irrigate more farms in many areas have been slow.
Farms also suffer losses caused by pests and diseases and natural disasters such as floods and typhoons. The country is visited by about a dozen typhoons every year.
Balisacan said farmers should have access to new technologies that will give them higher yields per hectare and protection against calamities such as floods and typhoons.
He said the government should review its policy on quantitative rice (QR) rice restrictions, which limit the entry of cheap rice into the country by imposing 40 percent tariff on imported rice under the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) and 50 percent beyond it.
Balisacan said the QR has a negative impact on consumers and the economy although it is deemed beneficial to the farmers.
“In QR, we are increasing production by prohibiting imports unnecessarily even when there are shortages. When we prohibit imports, the price will go up. With higher prices, the production will also increase but this doesn’t mean the farmers’ income will rise,” he said.
Balisacan said NEDA was planning to propose to the President to repeal the Agricultural Tariffication Act, which provides implementation of the QR policy.
“We will study the options so that the interests of the farmers will not be compromised,” he said. “We will think of a win-win solution for farmers as well as for the consumers and for the country as a whole.”