News & Events

Rising price of farm inputs beyond reach of farmers

Ernie B.Esconde
Manila Times, July 14, 2004

DESPITE the billions of pesos allocated by the govern­ment’s agriculture modernization program, the lack of an adequate irrigation system is still a problem for many farmers in Bataan and, perhaps, in the country.

Some government bureaucrat may insist that “no, only a few hectares are left unirri­gated.” But this just shows that they do not really know what they are talking about and that they have no grasp of the real need of farmers.

The irrigation of ricefield is supposed to be the responsibility of the government, so that the country can be assured that there will be enough rice. But it should not be enough to increase rice production while rice producers themselves are taken for granted.

The government should see to it that farmers increase their production and that the costs of production are lessened. Farming is a business and its income statement must not always reflect a “loss.”

Farming has to be an income-generating endeavor for it has been the only means of livelihood for many years by millions of Filipinos. But how can it be a profitable trade when one of the most simple and basic needs, irrigation, is still not properly addressed to?

In the town of Samal, Bataan, for example, many farmers are tied up to expensive diesel-fed waterpumps to irrigate their ricefield. Thus, a sizable part of their harvest goes to irrigation expenses.

The government has been talking of agriculture modernization, but where is it? They cannot even develop impounding areas for rainwater. That is why rivers and creeks are already dry after three sunny days although it rained everyday for a week before that. Water given free by nature just goes rushing to the sea. Do we still have no technology to impound rain water?

Without adequate irrigation, all rice production programs will be put to waste. In answer to lack of irrigation dams, the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos distributed surplus waterpumps with engines bought through the war reparation payments of the Japaners! Thernment. farm inputs are already beyond their reach.

The price of palay, on the other hand, has not changed over the past three years in the local market while the National Food Authority has pegged its support price for a number of years.

It is gratifying to know that the country’s rice production is increasing, as claimed by agriculture officials. Do farmers have to jump joyfully on this announcement?

But will agriculture bosses please concentrate not only on the rice yield but also on the income of farmers. If their take home pay, so to speak, is growing, then and only then can we consider the government’s program on rice production a resounding success.