RATING THE AGRICULTURE DEPARTMENT

Recently, I decided to take a cursory look at my e-file of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016, to see how we fared at the end of 2016. As I am a farmer, naturally, I made a beeline to my favorite sector: agriculture.

The PDP is a beautiful document. It enumerated in no uncertain terms what government is to achieve in the 5 year period ending 2016. I give you some examples:

1. Increase the average annual family income in agriculture and fisheries from P17,582.00 in 2009 to P19,793.00 in 2015

2. Increase yield of following:

a.Rice – from 3.62 tons/ha in 2010 to 4.89 tons/ha in 2016
b.White corn – from 1.62 tons/ha in 2010 to 1.95 tons/ha in 2016
c.Yellow corn – from 3.63 tons/ha in 2010 to 4.58 tons/ha in  2016
d. Coconut (copra) – from 0.80 ton/ha in 2009 to 1.00 ton/ha  in 2016

3. Increase net profit – cost ratio of:
a. Rice- from 0.44 in 2009 to 0.71 in 2016
b. White corn – from 0.22 in 2010 to 0.88 in 2016
c. Yellow corn – from 0.59 in 2010 to 0.88 in 2016
d. Coconut – from 1.26 in 2010 to 1,26 in 2016

4. Reduce post- harvest losses (%):
a. Rice – from 14.8 in 2008 to 12.4 by 2016
b. Corn – from 7.2 in 1009 to 6.6 in 2016

As this was THE Philippine national development plan, I imagine that the Duterte administration, in particular the Department of Agriculture, took the relay stick from the Aquino administration.

Naturally, I wanted to find out to what extent the DA had so far accomplished these objectives, so I looked for its performance report. The Presidential Communication Group published the following in December 2016:

1. A national color-coded agriculture map was launched on December 1, 2016.

2. Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has visited 26 provinces and cities in 13 regions in his Biyaheng Bukid.

3. Assistance delivered to farmers and fisherfolk amounted to about P871.47 million worth of various machineries, farm inputs, and other assistance which include: 31 units of four-wheel tractors; 20 units of hand tractors with accessories; 728 units of motorized fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP) boats; 9,918 bags of palay and corn seeds as well as 5,388 bags of fertilizer; and provision of livelihood projects worth P86.153 million.

4. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has distributed to 10,632 beneficiaries 5,581 gill nets and 10,271 other fishing gears/paraphernalia nationwide. BFAR also awarded 50 units of non-motorized fishing boats and 751 units of motorized fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) boats to fishers. A total of 1,007 units are due for completion until the 4th quarter of 2016.

5. Fish/seaweed farmers were provided with support in terms of technical assistance and farm inputs. From July to November 9, 2016, 53.15 million pieces of fingerlings, 341,388 kg seaweed propagules, and 3,155 sets of seaweed farm implements were given out to 12,484 beneficiaries.

My first reaction was, “Whoaa, what happened to those performance objectives?” Are we again seeing the cancer of Philippine politics where, however good the programs were of previous administrations, these are are thrown out of the window because these are not “ours”?

These “accomplishments” are NOT results, these are activities. They don’t tell us whether the lives of farmers and fisherfolk have improved or not. One may argue that all those millions of dole-outs will contribute towards improving farmer and fisher folk income, increase yield, increase farm profitability. But the cause and effect relationship is at best tenuous. Years and billions of pesos in dole-outs have not improved farmer and fisher folk income, not increased yield, not increased farm profitability. In past posts, we proposed some ideas that could give better results.

Dole-outs makes “Santa Claus” popular too and gives him high recall with the farmers and fisher folk, but it certainly doesn’t achieve those clear objectives. Just look at the situation of our farmers today.

I have been scanning the new programs being introduced by the Department, especially in farmers’ credit. I say, good start but the jury is still out on implementation mechanics, which is the bane of many government programs. I already talked to some farmers how these are faring. I will write on that soon.

I hope the Department of Agriculture continues the search for new, more effective ways than dole-outs in the next five years. Otherwise, we farmers will remain stuck in the same knee-deep cow poop.

(Mr. Cejar manages his family farm, RioVista, in Malungon, Saranggani)