Farmers can supply the requirements of local and multinational food giants and increase their incomes in the process, said Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan at Thursday’s hearing on the Farmers and Fisherfolk Entrepreneurship and Development Act of 2016, or Sagip Saka.
More than lack of capacities, Filipino farmers lack the confidence that they can meet the standards of food conglomerates.
“Madalas na unang tanong ng ating mga magsasaka ay hindi tungkol sa pautang, kundi ay kung kaya ba nilang mapunan ang demand kung sakaling magkakaroon sila ng partnership kasama ng private sector,” Pangilinan said.
“Pero maraming nagpapatunay na kaya nila,” he added.
Sagip Saka was Pangilinan’s program when he was on his second term as senator in 2012, when they partnered with the private sector to increase the income of select farmers’ cooperatives. This bill aims to institutionalize that program, uplifting the lives and increase the income of farmers and fisherfolk through agricultural enterprise and development.
“From the norm of subsistence farming, we must move toward farming enterprise. Sagip Saka hopes to mobilize capital to the producer, the farmer,” Pangilinan said.
“We will be able to do this through a multi-sectoral approach. The government, the private sector, local government units, farmer and fisher groups working together,” he added.
SAGIP SAKA THROUGH THE YEARS
Speaking at the hearing, Ms. Gisella Tiongson of the Jollibee Foundation shared how the program helped farmers reach their full potential. Sagip Saka and Jollibee partnered with the Kalasag Farmers Cooperative in San Jose City, Nueva Ecija in 2011.
“There is this lack of trust in our farmers, they themselves, and the other sectors. Tama si Senator, ang unang tanong nga nila ay kung kaya ba nila magsupply sa Jollibee ng ganito karaming mga gulay,” Tiongson said.
Partly with Sagip Saka’s help, 20% of Jollibee’s vegetable requirements are now sourced directly from farmers groups, the Jollibee Foundation official said.
“Kumikita ang mga nagsisibuyas ng P72,000 per season. There is hope in the agriculture sector if Sagip Saka is implemented,” Tiongson said.
For Nestle, Ruth Novales said her company trying to change the mindset of the coffee farmers in Bukidnon, where Sagip Saka and Nestle partnered. The two-year partnership led to the tripling of the yield and income of the farmers.
“We want them to think as ‘agripreneurs’. We hope to make agriculture sexy again. Because unlike what is generally believed, there is money in farming,” she said.
At the same time, Mr. Rene Cerila of the Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA) shared how farmers and fisher folk need to think in terms of full-value chains.
“Makakatulong din po kung mailalagay sa kautusan ang pagbibigay ng pagsasanay sa mga magsasaka batay sa pangangailangan nilang kasanayan. Yun po ang tinitingnan namin na mainam. Kung magagawa po ito sa buong Pilipinas, na merong tulong ang pamahalaan mismo. Mas mainam po siguro na full value chain na nga. Yung kooperatiba po mismo ang nagbibigay serbisyo sa mga magsasaka. Kung matutuloy po itong batas na ito, mas mapapaunlad po ang buhay ng mga magsasaka,” he said.
At the same time, Cerilla did not discount the farmers’ struggle for access to credit.
“Ang suliranin po naming mga mangingisda ay hindi kami makautang. Sinisingil po kami ng pang-araw araw, o lingguhan. Hindi po namin kayang bayaran yun. Hindi po naaangkop ngayon ang kasalukuyang polisiya sa pagpapautang,” he said.
Through Sagip Saka, Pangilinan said, government would be able create the environment conducive to investments in agriculture.
“Nasa pagkatao na ng ating mga magsasaka ang failure. Nais nating mabago ito. It has to be a mobilization of resources around the farmers to build his capacity. Dapat magsimula nang maisip na, ‘Kaya pala namin’,” he said.
At the start of the hearing, Pangilinan also offered a minute of silent prayer for the victims of typhoon Lawin that battered Northern Luzon on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, with feared substantial damage to the agriculture sector.