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Images of beautiful beaches and vibrant cities often come to mind when we think about the Philippines. However, behind this bustling facade lies a group of unsung heroes – the Filipino farmers. These hardworking individuals form the backbone of the Philippine economy, providing the nation with a steady supply of food and raw materials.

Our heroes, however, are on the brink of falling. The recent typhoons and continuous bad weather battered their hope for good yields from their crops. The situation is even worse due to the state of fluctuating prices of major commodities in the country.

Accordingly, the government has a good program in the field of agriculture. The subsidies for our farmers in the form of overpriced vouchers are known to have helped our heroes. Unfortunately, subsidies came late. Just two days, ago farmers in our place received their fertilizer subsidies but they cannot be used anymore since their crops are already fully grown. It is said that;

The national banner programs of DA on rice, corn, high-value crops, livestock, and organic agriculture are priority programs that aim to address food security, poverty alleviation, and sustainable growth through increased farm income and productivity. The programs are implemented nationwide and consist of six (6) activities/components as follows: i) Production Support Services; ii) Market Development Services; iii) Extension Support, Education, and Training Support Services iv) Research and Development; v) Irrigation Network Services; and vi) Provision of Agricultural Equipment and Facilities. These programs will directly contribute to SDG 2.3 as they aim to address food security, poverty alleviation, and sustainable growth through increased farm income and productivity. In addition, the project also contributes to SDG 2.4 in terms of ensuring sustainable food production systems. (Read here)

National Economic Development Authority

This program, however, seems too far to reach. Food security is elusive, poverty is growing among farmers, and farm productivity is compromised. The cost of tilling farmland escalates, the market is developed for big players, extension support is late and overpriced, training and research are off the field, irrigation system (in our area) is incomplete and non-functional, and equipment and facilities are cooperatives.

The Sentiments of the Farmers in the Philippines

Unfortunately, the sentiment among Filipino farmers is far from optimistic. Many of them struggle to make ends meet, facing numerous challenges on a daily basis. From unpredictable weather patterns to the lack of government support, these farmers are fighting an uphill battle to sustain their livelihoods and feed their families.

1. The Escalating Prices of Farm Inputs

One of the major hurdles faced by Filipino farmers is the escalating prices of farm inputs. Fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds have become increasingly expensive, making it difficult for farmers to afford these essential resources. As a result, many are forced to compromise on the quality of their crops, leading to lower yields and reduced profitability.

2. The Low Prices of Farm Outputs

Adding insult to injury, Filipino farmers also face the challenge of low prices for their farm outputs. Due to a lack of market access and unfair trading practices, farmers often receive meager returns for their hard work. This not only affects their income but also discourages them from investing in modern farming techniques and technologies.

3. The Problem with Hoardings and Price Freeze

Another issue plaguing Filipino farmers is the problem of hoardings and price freeze. Middlemen and unscrupulous traders often take advantage of the farmers’ vulnerability by hoarding agricultural produce and artificially controlling prices. This leaves the farmers at the mercy of these market manipulators, further exacerbating their financial struggles.

The Future of Filipino Farmers in the Hands of Growing Debts

Filipino farmers face a multifaceted challenge that exacerbates their already precarious livelihoods. In addition to contending with unpredictable weather patterns, farming issues, and inadequacies, they are ensnared in a relentless cycle of mounting debts. Their limited access to credit and financial resources leaves them with few options when they need capital to sustain their agricultural operations. Consequently, many farmers are forced to turn to informal lenders who charge exorbitant interest rates, leading to a growing debt burden that becomes increasingly difficult to escape. This financial strain severely constrains their ability to invest in their farms, purchase better seeds and equipment, or adopt modern farming practices, ultimately perpetuating a cycle of poverty that affects not only the farmers themselves but also their communities and the nation’s food security.

Breaking this cycle of debt among Filipino farmers is not only crucial for their individual well-being but also for the broader agricultural sector and the nation’s economic stability. It necessitates concerted efforts to improve access to affordable credit and financial services, as well as initiatives aimed at enhancing agricultural productivity and sustainability. By addressing these challenges comprehensively, the Philippines can empower its farmers to escape the clutches of debt, improve their livelihoods, and contribute significantly to the nation’s food production and economic growth.

The Call to Action for the Farming Industry in the Philippines

The Philippines stands at a pivotal moment where the farming industry requires immediate attention and substantial on-time and well-managed support. Agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy, employing a significant portion of the population and supplying the nation with its food. To ensure the resilience and growth of this crucial sector, the government must make it a top priority. This entails not only providing subsidies for farm inputs like seeds, fertilizers, and machinery but also improving market access for farmers. Facilitating fair trade policies that protect their interests and ensure equitable compensation is essential for their economic sustainability. Furthermore, investments in agricultural research and development must be significantly increased. Equipping farmers with the latest knowledge and cutting-edge tools will empower them to confront the multifaceted challenges they face, from climate change-induced disruptions to evolving market demands.

By prioritizing the development of agriculture, the Philippines can foster a more prosperous and secure future for its farmers and the nation as a whole. This shift in focus will not only elevate the livelihoods of those working in agriculture but also enhance food security, reduce poverty, and boost economic growth. It is a strategic imperative that demands collaboration between the government, private sector, and civil society to create a sustainable and vibrant agricultural landscape capable of withstanding the challenges of the 21st century.

By Roge Sison

An ordained clergy of The United Methodist Church.

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