What the gov’t should do to keep Filipinos well-fed
Despite efforts of the government to keep Filipinos well-fed, at least 3.1 million Filipino families still experienced involuntary hunger at least once during the last quarter of last year.
The question is, how do we move on from here? Right now, an international food agency has offered an unsolicited answer and it involves adopting a Chinese model.
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) is basically urging the government to do “structural transformation” by pouring investments in farm research & development, infrastructure, labor-intensive manufacturing and services, and land distribution in order for rural economies to grow.
IFPRI, which is co-implementing a $2.5 million ASEAN market development work, said that policy transformation like those adopted by China will play a huge role in rapidly lifting rural areas into progress.
“The design and implementation of institutions, policies and investments (in countries) have influenced the path and speed of rural transformation and … poverty reduction. Land reform, rural investments and sectoral policies have been decisive,” said Kevin Chen, IFAD senior research fellow at the SEARCA ATMI program.
China’s rural development success, according to Chen, is particularly attributable to the following: land redistribution in 1982, market reform, trade liberalization. Huge investment in infrastructure; rapid structural transformation—investments in manufacturing and services through decentralization, foreign direct investment (FDI), and regional competition; and substantial agricultural research & development.
Right now, IFAD is jointly implementing the ASEAN Transformation & Market Integration (ATMI) project with Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study & Research in Agriculture (SEARCA).
The dream toward a “one ASEAN” through ATMI was conceived as a result of the 2007 to 2008 food crisis when rice price shot up in the market beyond $1,000 per ton.
ASEAN member nations then adopted the ASEAN Integrated Food Security and Strategic Plan of Action (SPA) on Food Security which now covers 2015-2020.
ATMI aims to integrate small farmers into bigger business systems—called value chain which does the series of business activities from farming to processing, marketing, and distribution. It will make them competitive as numerous small farmers’ production are consolidated into one bigger supply bulk.
SEARCA said the role of small farmers to rural economic growth is tremendous as small farmers tending 1 to 2 hectares make up 85 percent of all land holdings and those holding less than 0.5 hectares make up 70 percent. These suffer the most from poverty and hunger.
Philippines itself placed 68 in the 2016 ranking for Global Hunger Index out of 118 countries.
According to the organization, principles structural transformation in the Philippines should be anchored on land distribution, effective social security system, investments in infrastructure, available financing, jobs creation, education, among others.
Chen said agricultural transformation involves the simultaneous development of the processing industry (including food processing) and services sectors (logistics, marketing) through “value chain development.”
He said the stages of transformation are 1. Development of the wholesale/logistics segment as public and private sectors and foreign institutions pour investments; 2. Processing booms as small and medium enterprises thrive from grain mills and dairy, meat, fish and produce processing and large scale plants also develop from consolidation due to improved policies; 3. More private retailers shoot up especially in light of e commerce.
“As an end goal, integration as aimed in ATMI is considered successful when agriculture diminishes to just one of the many major sectors of the economy. Transformation happens as a country progresses from agriculture-based economy, to pre-transition, transition to urbanization, and developed stage,” Chen said.