Scientist to government: Rethink intervention in agriculture

A local scientist recently urged the government to “rethink” its interventions in agriculture as the Covid-19 lockdown has further cut a number of farmers of their income—resulting in depressed demand for goods, food insecurity, and declining gross domestic product (GDP).

“Due to lockdown, mobility restrictions result in quantity reduction in farm labor.  If it continues longer, this would translate to reduction in agriculture productivity,” Dr. Glenn B. Gregorio, director of the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) said in a news statement.

Going on third month of the lockdown, Gregorio pointed out that a decline in Philippines’ agricultural production is being placed at 2.97 percent due to the decrease in the number of farmers tilling the land.

In a recent webinar on food security, Gregorio said Filipino farmers will experience financial challenges as they cannot sell their produce.

“The loss of income and economic slowdown would also result in decrease in demand, particularly among the farmers and farming families with no safety nets,” he added during the recent Searca Online Learning and Virtual Engagements (SOLVE) webinar on food security.

Moreover, Gregorio said the downturn in agricultural production is exacerbated by farmers’ limited access to farm inputs and markets to sell produce. This has already resulted in profit losses and wastage in farm produce such as vegetables in Benguet.

Gregorio said the government must craft a more collaborative approach in solving the food security problem.

He added the enhanced partnership must involve government, industries and the academe—the center and origin of many innovations and technology.

“Our experience with Covid-19 highlights the importance of how we define food security. This becomes the basis of how we design programs and projects,” he said.

Nevertheless, Gregorio said a ray of positivity emerged from the pandemic with the support of consumers   as a result of their understanding between “what is on their plate and agriculture.”

“Consumers have realized during the Covid-19 lockdown that if they do not support Filipino farmers and the farm sector, they will have nothing to eat—not the ideal nutritious kind everyone desires,” he said.

“The agriculture sector could capitalize on this increasing support to identify several investments needed to strengthen the agriculture systems as food systems,” Gregorio added.