Government agencies with food needs like the Department of Social Welfare and Development for its feeding program should buy directly from farmers so that farmers will be assured of a sure market for their produce and a steady income for their families, re-electionist senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said.
This type of government procurement is institutionalized under the proposed Farmers and Fishers Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development Act of the former Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization.
“Halimbawa, parating bumibili ng bigas at gatas ang DSWD para sa kanilang feeding program. Kung bibili sila diretso sa mga magsasaka at hindi na sa mga traders, magiging mas mababa ang gastos ng pamahalaan, mas makakabili ito nang mas marami, at masisiguro ang kita ng mga magsasaka (For example, DSWD buys rice and milk all the time for their feeding program. If they buy directly from the farmers and get rid of the middlemen, the cost would be lower for the government, enabling it to buy more, and the farmers would be assured of a steady income),” Pangilinan said.
Small farmers normally lack the capacity to sell in big volumes, he said, that is why they need to cluster themselves to get a better deal for their produce.
“Madalas nababarat ang mga paninda ng ating magsasaka ng mga tinatawag na consolidators kasi konti lang ang kaya nilang i-supply. Kung mag-c-cluster sila, mas marami ang kanilang paninda, mas maliit ang kanilang gastos, at madalas nagkakaroon pa ng trabaho ang ibang mga kasama(Our small farmers are usually at the mercy of consolidators, who buy their produce at low prices because they don’t have ‘economies of scale’. But if they cluster themselves, they would have more products to sell, lower costs, and usually create jobs for others),” Pangilinan said.
“Sama-sama, pwedeng paghati-hatian ng mga magsasaka ang gastos, halimbawa na ang sa transportasyon: pagrenta ng jeep, toll fee, bayad sat super, gas, at iba pa. Sa ganitong paraan, mas lalaki ang kita nila (Together, farmers can split their transportation cost consisting of jeep rental, toll fee, driver’s fee, and gas. In the process, they earn more),” he added.
Under his proposed law, Pangilinan, who owns a small farm in Cavite, said government will help farmers develop the capacity to cluster themselves, make financial plans, look for and talk to direct buyers, etc.
To tap the private sector as market for small farmers, his proposal gives incentives to food chains that buy directly from farmers. Incentives may come in the form of tax breaks.
Pangilinan cited the case of Thailand, where farm products go directly to supermarkets and groceries. “Ito marahil ang dahilan kaya mas mura ang bilihing pagkain nila doon (This may be the reason why food prices are lower there),” he said.
Pangilinan, who puts agriculture as a priority in his legislative agenda, said farmers in the Philippines are among the poorest.
“Hindi tama ito. Sila ang nagpapakain sa atin. Dapat itama ang kalagayang ito (This is not right. Farmers are the ones who feed us. We should remedy this situation),” he said.