Pangilinan sees food crisis as farmers getting fewer

January 17, 2011

Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
January 17, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Filipino farmers are growing old and the young people are not replacing them in the fields.

Sen. Francis Pangilinan, chair of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said this was an “unseen crisis” in the industry which could affect the country’s food supply in the next few years.

The Philippines has about 4.3 million farmers, tilling an average of 2.5 hectares of land each, Pangilinan said in a media briefing.

Their average age is 57, much too old to till the fields. “This is reaching crisis level. If we don’t correct this in three years, we will have a problem getting our output,” he said.

Pangilinan said the demographics indicated that younger Filipinos were not enticed to enter in the agricultural sector. For them, farming is not a way out to poverty, he said.

“Their grandfathers were poor, their fathers were poor,” he said.

“Why don’t they come in? Because they don’t find it viable,” he added.

Pangilinan said the key to encouraging new blood in the agricultural sector was to improve support to farmers so that they could increase their income.

He favored the strengthening of the local government’s role in agricultural productivity because the local executives know the needs of their farmers.

“I am more partial to the idea of just letting the [Department of Agriculture] set the policy direction and then let the local governments implement [that policy],” Pangilinan said.

The local governments’ capacity building should be improved so that they can provide the right agricultural extension services to farmers, he said.

Economists and experts said the Philippine government’s weak extension service is one of the reasons for the low yield in the farm sector.

Currently, Pangilinan said the Senate was conducting hearings on Senate Bill No. 1337 or the “Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Act of 2010.” The bill, introduced by Sen. Loren Legarda, calls for the creation of the Philippine Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Agency (Pafea).

“It shall serve as the national apex organization for a unified and efficient agriculture and fisheries extension system of the country. It shall ensure that public extension services meet the national standards of performance and effectively contribute towards the achievement of the national goals of agriculture and fisheries modernization and sustainable development,” the bill said.

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