SENATOR Cynthia A. Villar on Wednesday called out the Department of Agriculture (DA) for its continuing reliance on importation instead of focusing on building up self-sufficiency through programs that will help farmers improve their yield.
In a hearing on Senate Bill 120 or the Corn Industry Development bill, the chair of the agriculture and food committee, said: “Our aim is to produce corn, so we don’t have to import, and then produce it at a price where it is competitive.”
“Hopefully, the Department of Agriculture will keep in mind that we should always, towards the long-term, produce what we need,” she added. “Supply should equal demand. In the meantime, while we are unable to do so, we will import, but that is a temporary solution.”
Ms. Villar presented data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showing that yellow corn production in the Philippines has been in an uptrend.
However, “production cannot keep up with the demand of 8.9 million metric tons (MT) in the country for 2022,” she said.
The total production for corn last year reached only 6.1 million MT, which led to the importation of 537,568 MT of yellow corn and 2.9 million MT of feed wheat, which is used as a substitute for yellow corn.
Ms. Villar said the DA seems to be adopting importation as a permanent solution by failing to help develop the industry.
“Is your job to give livelihood to the importers, not to give livelihood to the farmers? We should be clear on that,” she said. “Your job is to give livelihood to the local farmers, not the importers.”
“Your mandate is to have a developmental program that will produce enough supply for the Philippines at a competitive price. That is your mandate,” she added.
Ms. Villar underscored that the development of the yellow corn industry, which is used as a major ingredient for feeds, goes hand-in-hand with the growth of the livestock and poultry industries.
The senator also presented corn price data on selected Asian countries, which showed that the Philippines “produce the most expensive corn” in the region.
Senator Ana Theresia “Risa” N. Hontiveros-Baraquel, meanwhile, added her voice to calls for the government to put on hold a plan to import 21,060 metric tons (MT) of onion, saying there would be enough supply with the approaching local harvest season.
“It’s best to wait and see,” she said in a statement on Wednesday. “If the harvest is good like last year, maybe there is no need for 22,000 metric tons of onions to be imported.”
Farmers’ groups and other legislators have opposed a Department of Agriculture clearance issued on Tuesday allowing onion importers to bring in their goods until Jan. 27. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan