Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

President of the Republic of the Philippines 2001 - 2010

Agricultural Self-Sufficiency: Sowing the Seeds of Food Security

Ensuring the country's food security required increases in agricultural production as well as imports when these are necessary. Mindful of this challenge, the Government made sure that agricultural development became a major thrust of its comprehensive economic reform program.

I. Investing in Food Security

A. The National Situation

Through hard work of our population in the rural areas, and careful planning and implementation of faithful public servants, the Government achieved results in the agricultural sector over the period 2001-2009 as shown by the continuous increase in the Gross Value Added in Agriculture.

Source: National Statistical Coordination Board

As shown by the data, the agricultural sector grew at an average annual rate of 3.41 percent over the nine-year period between 2000 and 2009 -- no mean feat considering the impediments thrown up by adverse weather conditions (El Nino and La Nina) during that span of time.

The extent of government activity is determined by the size of the budget. The allocated budget of the Department of Agriculture in 2001 was P16.1 billion. The allocation remained more or less at that level until 2007, when it rose to P19.2 billion. In the years that followed, it jumped to P27.8 billion in 2008 and to its highest ever P46.9 billion in 2009, only to dip to P37.8 billion in 2010. The tremendous increase of the budget in the last three years is the result of improved revenues brought about by collection of the value added tax (VAT).

The Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) unveiled in 2004 set some developmental targets for the five-year period 2004-2010. By 2009, most of these targets were already reached. In agriculture, the development program had generated 2.62 million jobs, exceeding the targeted 2.37 million; and had established 1.8 million hectares of agri-business lands out of the 1.6 million hectare target.

B. Facing a Crisis

The period 2007-2008 saw the cost of food rising by some 200 percent, the outcome of sharply rising oil and fertilizer prices aggravated by individual country export bans, extreme weather conditions, and the conversion of food crops into fuel crops. More than a billion people worldwide who had graduated from poverty were thrown back down to the ranks of the impoverished.

Clearly, the Government could not allow such developments to adversely impact on the country's population. It acted promptly, first, by pushing an aggressive procurement and distribution strategy, and, secondly, by launching a comprehensive agricultural productivity enhancing program.

The procurement and distribution strategy included importation and the moderation of the selling price of rice to final consumers. In these efforts, the P20 billion windfall from VAT collections played a key role, allowing the increase in the support price to farmers from P12 per kilogram to P17 per kilogram; and the sale of rice to the "poorest of the poor" at the subsidized price of P18.25 per kilogram and to the wider public at a market-influenced price of P25 – P35 per kilogram.

C. The FIELDS Program

At the productivity enhancing front, the Government launched various initiatives, including the comprehensive FIELDS program, where F stood for fertilizer, I for irrigation and infrastructure, E for extension, including R&D and capacity building, L for loans, D for dryers and other post-harvest facilities, and S for seeds and other genetic materials of fish, livestock and poultry. FIELDS produced outstanding results that boosted agricultural production throughout the country.

1. Boosting Productivity: Fertilizer Component

Cognizant of the fact that fertilizer supply is indispensable to agricultural productivity, the DA joined hands with the local government units (LGUs) to be able to distribute subsidized fertilizers to as many rural beneficiaries possible.

Early into 2010, 36.6 Million kilograms of organic fertilizers and other soil ameliorants such as Bio-N, Vital-N and Bio-con have been distributed to help farmers reduce the cost of their inputs and increase their productivity. The GMA Rice Program has also distributed 3.56 Million fertilizer discount coupons valued at P890 Million. This can cover up to 1.78 Million hectares of rice land.

Aside from rice lands, the fertilizer component also covers other crops. For instance, the Salt Fertilization Projects (SFP) have been conducted over 45,271 hectares of land covered by almost 4.5 million coconut trees, benefiting 45,861 farmers. To help farmers determine the optimum amounts of fertilizer to be used for specific soil types, the DA also distributed 2,693 soil test kits and 8,023 leaf color charts, including Minus-One-Element-Technique (MOET) kits.

2. Building Towards Productivity: Irrigation & Infrastructure Component

Studies show that 25 percent of growth in rice production can be attributed to irrigation, and that for every peso invested on irrigation, there is a net return of seven pesos. Acknowledging this fact, the Government made sure that irrigation becomes a priority.

Even before FIELDS, the agricultural infrastructure intervention of the government had already targeted specific areas to ensure maximum production without waste of the necessary funds.

A total of P67 Billion has been used for irrigation development or rehabilitation from 2001 to 2009. To date, a total of 136,477 hectares of new areas have been irrigated, while 1.3 Million hectares have either been restored or rehabilitated. FIELDS alone was able to generate 22,504 hectares of new irrigation areas by end of 2009. A total of 251,839 hectares of unserviceable irrigation facilities and 149,874 hectares of deteriorated irrigation facilities have also been either rehabilitated or restored within that same period.

The Government also undertook the construction of farm-to-market roads (FMRs) in the far-flung areas of the countryside. By the end of 2009, a total of 4,855 kilometers of FMRs had been completed through the joint efforts of the DA, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA).

On the fisheries sector, the DA through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), pushed for the establishment of mariculture parks in coves and other protected areas around the country. Mariculture parks are integrated pond systems that make it possible for small fishers to breed high-value marine species in submersible cages. A total of 46 mariculture parks have been established from 2001 to 2009, 20 of which were under FIELDS.

3. Empowering Farmers: Extension, R&D, Capacity-Building Component

Giving a premium to the skill and determination of the Filipino farmer, the DA conducted 15,222 agricultural training programs benefiting 696,967 farmers and agricultural extension workers to equip them with farming technologies that will improve their productivity.

Of these figures, FIELDS alone covered 13,682 training activities for 282,793 farmers/fisherfolk. A total of 8,686 techno demos were also held to showcase new technologies that will help improve farming activities in the countryside. The DA also carried out 4,267 various research and development (R&D) activities to generate production-enhancing, cost-reducing and quality-improving technologies to be disseminated to farmers and fisherfolk.

When contagious animal diseases posed a serious threat to the country's livestock and poultry supply, the Animal Health and Disease Control Program was initiated. Thus, a potential loss of about P1.97 Billion was averted through vaccination, treatment and deworming of 3,464,961 animals in 2008.

4. Jumpstarting Farmers' Dreams: Loans Component

The common situation of farmers and fisherfolk was that they did not have the sufficient capital to finance their farms and fishponds. Pursuant to a Presidential directive, a total of P4.4 Billion was released to 139,854 farmers and fisherfolk under the various lending facilities of the Agro-Industry Modernization Credit and Financing Program.

The Agricultural Guarantee Fund Pool (AGFP), which was established to encourage financial institutions to lend to farmers by providing guarantee cover of up to 85% of the unsecured loans extended to them, has so far provided P4.17 Billion worth of guarantee lines to 121,137 farmers. Around P17.3 Billion has also been released to 566,310 farmer-beneficiaries for palay production through the Land Bank of the Philippines.

All in all, 37.8 Million farmers and fisherfolk-borrowers benefited from a total of P322.8 Billion agricultural loan and credit assistance released nationwide by various government financing programs.

5. Dryers & Other Post-harvest Facilities Component: Minimizing Losses

To minimize post-harvest losses and ensure grain quality for better prices, FIELDS distributed 1,288 units of flatbed dryers in various provinces, with an additional 685 flatbed dryers being distributed, 245 of which have already been installed, as of the end of 2009. This benefited almost 50,000 farmer-households involving more than 71,000 hectares of agricultural land. Including data prior to FIELDS, a total of 10,846 postharvest equipments have already been distributed nationwide while 19,489 units of postharvest facilities have been constructed and rehabilitated.

The DA has also successfully started operating 11 Corn Post-harvest Processing & Trading Centers, four of which were established in 2008. In addition to that, the construction of 7 municipal fish ports, 52 Bagsakan Centers and 402 Barangay Bagsakan Centers nationwide do not only guarantee basic food items at lower prices than those in regular retail outlets, but also provide an atmosphere conducive for agribusiness to flourish.

6. Seeds & Other Genetic Materials Component: Ensuring Rebirth

The growth of the agricultural sector is rooted upon the seeds from which plant and animal life originate. Working under this concept, the GMA Rice Program was able to provide certified seeds which grew over 4.2 Million hectares, and hybrid seeds which covered 329,665 hectares. The DA was also able to distribute 25.9 Million pieces of planting materials such as sugarcane, mango, coconut, cashew, citrus, lanzones, durian, cassava, mushroom spawn, and forage cuttings to increase the country's total production of high value crops.

On the part of livestock, the Genetic Improvement Program (GIP) successfully distributed 140,393 animals, including large and small ruminants, poultry, swine and dairy. This would further improve the breeder base and upgrade the native stocks of such animals. A total of 259.3 Million pieces of fingerlings and 3.68 Million pieces of brood stock were also distributed to increase fish production in the aquaculture sector.

II. Looking Forward

We are hopeful that trends to the future will be better. The energy and enthusiasm of our farmers in carrying out even the most strenuous of agricultural tasks have been the source of our inspiration to do our part in the development effort. We must continue to search for ways to increase the quantity and quality of resources to bring to bear on our agricultural problems. We must not stop until that day has come when our people are living that life of sufficiency and abundance that they richly deserve.