Medina said the country’s agricultural policies have always been geared towards importation and high costing technologies.
Widespread conversion of prime agricultural lands is also one of the main reasons why rice productivity is declining.
He cited data showing that the Philippines has been importing an average of 800,000 metric tons of rice since 1996, increasing up to more than one million MT in the last three years – the period when the Philippine government signed into the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“The government’s agricultural research thrusts, have mostly involved bio-fortified rice and a biotic stresses-resistant rice, but not on the production volume per se,” Medina said.
Medina accused the government of promoting ‘expensive’ production technologies such as hybrid rice and genetically-modified organisms, instead of developing and harnessing the full potential of the agricultural sector.
The high cost of chemical inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides has driven farmers into further indebtedness and forced them to reduce the use of chemical inputs and suffer lower yields.
A bag of chemical fertilizers now costs around P1,200 per hectare while a liter of pesticide costs about P900.
Federico Gil, chair of the Board of Directors of MASIPAG and a farmer from North Cotabato, said the Department of Agriculture has yet to provide appropriate material and technological support for the poor farmers to address our situation.
“Loans, infrastructures and facilities are lacking. We barely get the optimum yields from our fields,” Gil said.
The group likewise pointed to the massive conversion of prime agricultural lands into industrial and residential uses, and even plantations of cash crops that are being exported to other countries.
“Our agricultural lands should be developed and used for the planting of staple food crops to ensure the availability of food,” he said, adding, agricultural policies should prioritize Filipino consumers rather than in other countries, he suggested.
The recent deals signed between the Philippines and China involves around 1.2 million hectares of agricultural lands and will be planted with hybrid crops to be exported to China.
Hundreds of hectares of land in the provinces are being converted and developed into domestic airports, or plantations of jathropa and oil palm.
“To effectively achieve and sustain rice sufficiency and food security, the DA must be serious in implementing a comprehensive program for agriculture,” said Medina. (MindaNews)