Farmers should benefit from P9-B direct food purchase, better value chain: Pangilinan

DIRECT purchase of agricultural products from farmers and cooperatives is now at P9 billion, an amount that Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said should also directly benefit farmers and better the value chain.

“Ngayong nalaman natin na P9 billion na pala umabot ang direktang pagbili ng mga produktong pang-agrikultura, kailangan nating makita kung ano ba ang konkretong epekto nito sa buhay ng ating mga magsasaka,” Pangilinan said after Monday’s Senate Committee hearing on the budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the funds under the Bayanihan 1 and 2.

“Gaano kataas ang dinagdag sa kanilang kita? Dahil ito na dapat ang maging benchmark ng pag-unlad ng agrikultura sa bansa: ang mapataas ang kanilang kita sa pamamagitan ng pagsiguro na nariyan ang gobyerno at may siguradong merkado para bumili ng kanilang mga produkto,” he added.

DA Secretary William Dar has reported that consolidated sales from local government units (LGU) under the Sagip Saka Act, as well as DA’s “Kadiwa sa Ani at Kita” program, are now at P3 billion and P6 billion respectively.

Pangilinan is principal author of the Sagip Saka Act which mandates local and national government units and agencies to purchase directly from farmers and cooperatives or associations.

DA’s Kadiwa sa Ani at Kita’s primary function is to connect farmers to a commercial or institutional market. Dar also said that the DA is committed to buy the agri products if it is unable to connect the farmers to sure buyers.

The DA however clarified that its report is only limited to purchases that they were able to monitor, and that LGUs also buy directly from farmers through their own initiatives because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pangilinan affirmed this statement by sharing the case of the Camarines Sur Multipurpose Cooperative whose sales increased nine-fold due to LGU direct purchases.

“I was in a webinar sa Naga and yung CamSur Multipurpose Cooperative last year, 2019, ang binili sa kanila P7 million pesos worth of agricultural products. But this year, 13 LGUs bought from them P62 million pesos worth of rice. So ang laki nung jump. And they are precisely because of these LGU purchases na labing tatlo dyan sa Camarines Sur,” Pangilinan said.

“So we would like to get a listing also of those 3 billion kung pwedeng masubmit sa atin, sino- sino yan, ano’ng kooperatiba yan, ano’ng local government yan,” he added.

Pangilinan also encouraged the DA to push further for direct purchases to benefit farmers and fisherfolk, as not all mayors are aware that they are allowed to make these direct purchases.

“I was in a discussion with some mayors in Iloilo and also from Region 5, and a number of them are not familiar with the direct purchases… So maybe the DA can push further these direct purchases para mas marami pa sa ating farmers and fisherfolk ang makikinabang,” he said.

“Increased income [of farmers and fisherfolk] should always be the benchmark in terms of intervention,” Pangilinan said, requesting for data showing increased income due to direct purchases be presented during plenary.

Pangilinan also asked DA to coordinate with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) with regards to its feeding and food assistance programs.

Today’s budget hearing is the first of the three-part budget deliberations for the DA. Agriculture officials are expected to return on October 16 to defend the budget of the Office of Secretary, and October 19 for the budget of its attached agencies.