‘Convert small farmer to cooperativized entrepreneur linked to supply chain’
BAGUIO CITY – To earn better income, Filipino farmers need to be transformed into cooperativized entrepreneurs linked to a supply chain able to perform the functions of middlemen, senatorial candidate Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Tuesday.
“Filipino farmers occupy the lowest in the social and economic food chain, and this should not be case because they hold the most sacred job of feeding people,” he said. “This is unjust as it keeps them at subsistence levels of existence – isang kahig, isang tuka.”
Pangilinan, former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization, has seen and participated in the success of a pilot agro enterprise development program among onion farmers, in partnership with fast-food giant Jollibee, international relief and development NGO Catholic Relief Services, the government agri-business livelihood agency National Livelihood Development Corp., banks, local governments, and members of the academe.
From 2008 to 2011, ninety-five onion farmers organized themselves into clusters; trained in business planning, marketing, and financing; then linked with and eventually sold to Jollibee and other corporate buyers.
This program increased the onion farmers’ income by 31 percent, created 91 new jobs (onion peelers) for women, and sold more than 1,000 metric tons of onions for $864,000, according to a CRS report.
“This is what we want to replicate with our Sagip Saka Act of 2016, or the Farmer Entrepreneurship and Development Act of 2016. Gusto nating maiahon ang ating mga magsasaka mula sa kahirapan at makagawa ng mga bago at marangal na trabaho (We want to uplift the lives of our farmers from poverty and create new and decent jobs),” Pangilinan said.
“Pwedeng guminhawa ang buhay sa pagsasaka. Pwedeng mabuhay nang marangal sa kanilang gawain ang mga magsasaka (Standard of living can improve through agriculture. Agriculture can provide a decent livelihood for farmers). We want to institutionalize and scale-up this program to all types of farmers, products, and markets – sa singkamas at talong, kamatis, bawang at luya. Sa lahat ng gulay sa ‘Bahay Kubo’(to turnip and eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, and ginger. To all the vegetables in the song ‘Bahay Kubo’),” he added.
Right now, farmers and fishermen are among the poorest sector in the Philippines. According to the 2012 Family Income and Expenditure Survey and Labor Force Survey of the Philippine Statistical Authority, 39.2 percent of fishermen and 38.3 percent of farmers are poor.
“Pwede namang hindi ganito ang sitwasyon ng ating mga magsasaka (This situation need not be the case with our farmers). With the help of other stakeholders, especially the government, farmers should have a more direct link to the market. And with a more direct link to the market, farmers should be able to increase their income and ultimately improve their quality of life,” Pangilinan said.