Statement of AGHAM on World Food Day 2017

Last October 16 is the commemoration of World Food Day. This year’s theme hopes to jumpstart the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger in 15 years.

Yet, to many, especially the small farmers in several countries like the Philippines this theme is no different from  the false hopes and failed promises of  the Green Revolution of the 70s, the liberalization of agricultural trade in the 80s, the regime of the World Trade Organization in the 90s, and the Millennium Development Goals of the 2000. They have all born the theme of addressing hunger and they have all failed the small farmers.

Small farmers are still mired in landlessness. They farm food in lands that are not theirs.  They are barely earning from back-breaking production, which cost has become steeper than ever, which harvest cannot compete with liberalized agricultural trading, leaving them indebted and impoverished.

The bloody dispersal of Kidawapan farmers who clamored for government support for the  intense hunger they experienced when the El Nino phenomenon struck the Mindanao region last year  is a glaring reminder  of the ironic situation that the that the country’s own food producers are the ones  without food.

The Philippines’ entry to the World Trade Organization-Agreement on Agriculture has hurt our food production system and made us a food insecure country as our staple commodity such as rice is dependent on importation. Filipino farmers have suffered from the globalization policies promoted by the multilateral agriculture trade agreements and the absence of state subsidies.

Filipino farmers are bearing the expensive cost of rice production per kilogram at P 12.41/kg compared to its neighboring countries, Thailand (P 8.85/kg) and Vietnam (P 6.53/kg). Such disparities are attributed to the subsidies given to the Vietnam farmers with the government giving support price of rice at $236 per ton through the Vietnam Food Association while Thailand is receiving a support price amounting to $450 per ton while Filipino farmers had to subsists on a $180 per ton government support.

On the other hand, the country’s  agriculturally productive lands are being exploited by agro plantations for biofuels (sugarcane, corn, palm oil) and other high-valued crops (banana, pineapple). The Network Resisting Expansion of Agricultural Plantations in Mindanao (REAP Mindanao Network) noted that in Mindanao, vast tracts of productive lands are being occupied by rubber, banana and pineapple plantations.

Agro-transnational corporations such as Del Monte, Sumifru and Dole’s plantations are the leading agribusiness ventures that control the land use in Mindanao. It is estimated that about one (1) million hectares in Mindanao will be covered with palm oil that covers the Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, Caraga and Northern Mindanao region. This has threatened the rice producing provinces in Mindanao, Lanao del Norte, Bukidnon, North Cotabato. 

Food security and self-sufficiency can only be attained if the Philippines will end its subservience to the dictates of the international financial institutions, and the agrocorporations of the rich countries. Only the path of distributing land to the tillers and ensuring genuine agrarian support  through state subsidies to small farmers  will provide a lasting solution to achieve zero hunger.###


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