Civil society organizations, farmer rights groups, and people’s organizations registered criticism on the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) National Food Security Summit which took place from May 18-19, 2021.
The groups protested the continuing control and preference of the government towards agribusinesses, especially foreign companies and local monopolies. This current agricultural framework, they say, will plunge the country into deeper import dependency and make food self-sufficiency more out of reach.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar presented DA’s action plan, called ‘One DA’ which gives a ‘holistic approach’ in transforming the agriculture and fisheries sector. This is also amplified by DA policy and planning undersecretary Rodolfo Vicerra who pointed out that what is needed are more investments to salvage the lagging sector.
“While it is true that we need to modernize and mechanize the agriculture sector for food security, we should also ask “how” will it be implemented. It will not matter if farmers will be equipped with the most advanced technologies and capacitated in market access, if the grand design primarily serves the interests of big businesses then we are walking the path towards profit, not food for all,” says Liza Maza, Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) spokesperson.
Usec Vicerra says that “hiding behind protectionism” is the very reason why the sector sustains annual losses and instead advocates for more liberalization in the economy and the removal of trade restrictions for attracting more investors.
“Liberalization of the industry is not the answer to the problems relating to food security. It is only an attempt to justify the increasing bias towards corporations and agri-businesses. On the contrary, the farmers and the people who are the primary drivers of the sector should be central to our agricultural policies. People first, before profit,” Maza emphasized.
Instead of easing up restrictions which will destroy and discourage local production for self-sufficiency, CPDG asserts a pro-people and farmer-centered approach vis-a-vis the profit-oriented agricultural policies that promote preference for high value or cash crops instead of planting for local consumption.
“What is necessary, that even the DA recognizes, is the need for support and subsidies for our farmers. That is correct. However, if the meaning of ‘support’ is to make them dependent on agribusinesses and agri corporations, it means the government is abandoning the cause of food security and self-sufficiency. It means that profit, really, becomes the primary goal,” Maza ended.