Don’t blame agriculture for inflation uptick

SM Foundation signs MOA with DA: SM Foundation Inc. executive director Debbie Sy (4th from left) and Cristie Angeles (extreme right), executive director for livelihood and outreach, sign a memorandum of agreement with Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol and Undersecretary Evelyn Lavina for high value crops and rural credit, institutionalizing the partnership between DA and the foundation on SMFI's Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan Farmers' Training program in the country. Also signing the agreement are SMFI's partners-- Arsenio Barcelona of Harbest Agriculture Inc. and Martin Lorenzo of Macondray Philippines Inc.

 

By Rose de la Cruz

 

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol today vented his frustration on some economic managers who keep blaming the uptick in inflation to high rice prices and other agricultural products.

 

“The farmers are always blamed for increases in inflation rate, but the truth is they too are victims of high inflation which is caused not by high prices of food products but other factors in the world, like high oil prices,” Pinol said after signing the memorandum of agreement with SM Foundation for the institutional strengthening of SMFI’s Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan Farmers’ Training Program, which had been going on since 2006.

 

Inflation is caused by high oil prices abroad, high fares, depreciating peso and higher cost of living, not by the price of local rice and food products, Pinol stressed.

 

He complained that currently it is so hard for young farmers—and the mindset of old farmers to the easy way and low cost of inputs (even at lower yields)—to persist in planting rice and other food crops and yet they are the first ones to get blamed for inflationary upticks.

 

He also reported that right now, the DA lends directly (P50,000 per hectare) to farmers—whereas before their money is sent to the Land Bank for disbursement to the farmers. “It is a known fact that most farmers would not want to go to banks because they are not financially- literate and they are being asked to produce collateral among other documents that are hard to produce,” Pinol added.

 

He lamented that his frustrations are those hardheaded farmers who refuse to learn new high-yielding planting technologies and practices and some economic managers (who do not appreciate the importance of agriculture and thus give the sector the least budget).

 

 

MOA between DA, SM Foundation

 

While SM Foundation Inc. has been holding farmers’ training programs focusing on high value crops for 11 years, it only made official its partnership and linkages with the Department of Agriculture Monday morning through the MOA.

 

The MOA signing took place at the office of DA by Pinol, SM Foundation Executive Director Debbie Sy and Cristie Angeles, assistant vice president and executive director for livelihood programs of SM Foundation, Arsenio Barcelona, for Harbest Agriculture and Martin Ignacio Lorenzo, Macondray Philippines Inc. and DA Undersecretary Evelyn Lavina for high value crops and rural credit.

 

Under the agreement, the foundation commits to: a) provide the funding for the service providers season-long training modules on vegetable farming; b) coordinate with the partners and the beneficiaries—host LGUs, farmers and agriculturists who will participate in the training program; c) work closely with SM Group partners like SM Mall and Food Group management and the proper implementation of the scheduled projects according to their program of activities; d) act as the principal sponsor of the project and provide the template for its implementation; e) provide a representative in the preparation and implementation works for each project site; e) help disseminate project information to other potential project beneficiaries through media, publications and seminars and f) coordinate and organize project launching with the beneficiaries and harvest festival cum graduation ceremony at nearby SM Mall or other activity center.

 

KSK

 

The foundation spearheaded the implementation and funding of the Kabalikat sa Kabuhayan (KSK) Farmers’ Training program in rural (since 2007) and urban (in recent years) settings as one of the banner corporate social responsibility programs initiated by SM founder, Henry Sy Sr.

 

The project principally aims to provide hands-on season-long training on vegetable farming for poor farmers to produce better quality and higher yielding vegetables and to enhance their livelihood opportunities for their families. It had engaged the services of Harbest and Macondray and made them integral parts of the MOA.

 

The DA commits to: a) provide the manpower support from the regional field offices of the High Value Crops Development Coordinator in identifying possible sites of 5,000 sq. m. for rural areas and 1,000 sq.m. for urban areas as training farm and arrange the cooperation of host LGU or farmer groups as needed; b) make sure that identified areas are accessible, secured but not prone to flooding during raining season, fertile and with existing irrigation pimps or canals; c) select 50 farmer participants who are committed to attend the training sessions, technical support for selected applied agricultural technologies and post-training assistance; d) through the DA-RFOs, assist project coordinator in providing field extension services for the trainees in their replication of applied technology in their communities and e) assist in providing field report and project summary to SM Foundation on the outcome of the training program and the continuing benefits for farmer-communities as an offshoot of the technology applied.

 

Farmers’ woes

 

Pinol said the usual problem of farmers is finding market for their produce but with SM malls already there to absorb their products, then farmers have no more reason not to get into farming.

 

But Angeles said the farmers will be organized into groups and their outputs will be consolidated so that they sell directly to a consolidator (that had been doing business with SM) who will pay them in cash and the consolidator is the one that waits to be paid in 30 or 60 days by SM.

 

Sy said the experience of SM Foundation in the previous training programs they have undertaken is that farmers continue with the new knowledge they acquired and sell to these consolidators while reserving some for their own needs and those of their families and communities.

 

She even said even the urban gardening project has gained traction in Metro Manila, for LGUs that have lands to spare for the project and even high-class condo dwellers who produce their own (potted) veggies right at their homes.

 

So far, the foundation has undertaken training programs for urban farming or urban gardening in Caloocan, Makati, Pasay, Pasig and Taytay.

 

 

 

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