Facing The Storm
As in previous disasters, there is no option left but to rise and start all over again.
The description of “pliant like a bamboo” is an accepted image of our people. Like a bamboo, we face each and all that comes our way, and we stand erect after each trial.
The catastrophe of the two typhoons brought havoc and destruction to many to include our farming and fishing sectors. And as in previous disasters, there is no option left but to rise and start all over again.
As in the recent typhoons, farmers in Central and Northern Luzon were generally left to fend for themselves as resources of the government were but meager measure compared to the need of the hour.
Farmers were harvesting their wet palay and drying them in highways and cemented pavements, hoping to recover whatever they can save from their crop. Some were able to replant lost crops, hoping that this time, they will be luckier.
This is also true with the hard hit fisherfolks as they have to rebuild and restock their fishponds to make up for lost time. Again, they are scrounging for the needed capital to start again.
Tropical storms come and go in our land and our farming and fisheries sectors are always able to comeback and rise and hack out their economic survival and fortunes. And many do it by extending their resourcefulness to the limit to be on the comeback trail.
The DA had said that losses to crops, livestock and fisheries amounted to Php28 billion which is a cost to somebody and has to be recouped. Government can take losses due to infrastructure damage, but losses incurred by farmers and fisherfolks are of different category. These are losses or cost shouldered by individual families whose money for investment is very limited.
Outside of the tropical storms that we encounter every now and then is the perceived storm of neglect that makes our agriculture uncompetitive versus the world. It is a storm that we are having all these years that made our domestic market a “favorite destination” of agricultural products from other countries, be it fresh vegetables, pork and beef, and the list can go on and on. We have become a food importing country unable to meet the demands of our people.
Admittedly, there are some products that can be imported cheaper than producing it locally as there is an interplay of climatic conditions on levels of productivity for certain breeds or genetics. Access to and presence (or cost) of technology is another issue to consider.
But within the country, we can be as competitive given the proper tools (technology and infrastructure) and access to financial resources (capital.) on an even playing field (tax and tariff structure, security of tenure by means of consistent policy direction).
Sometime ago, DA came out with product champions that we can produce and ultimately, export to the world. As there had been many programs announced by those who came to head the Department but had failed to excite the entrepreneurial spirit or stir strong reaction from the agri-sector. Programs to change course or alter direction need longer gestation periods that a sustaining push is required over a period of time.
And a noted local agrieconomist had pointed to the frequent change of DA secretary (before the present DA leadership) as one of the reasons to the present uncompetitiveness of things in the agri-sector.
The tools to competitiveness are known and are no secrets. With the legions of our PhDs in government, it is still a wonder to the farming sector why we have not been able to keep pace with our ASEAN neighbors in terms of agri-growth and competitiveness. And we are being overtaken by previously so-so economies on this part of the world.
The low public investment in agriculture has always been the culprit pointed to. And economists would invariably compare this with our neighbors and justify why they are ahead and we are lagging behind.
The lack of government resources is a given. Government funding is never enough to meet all the social and economic investment requirement but they can prioritize and prioritize they must.
A more focused approach should be done to temper the storm of neglect. A shot-gun, solve-everything approach cannot equal the needs of the agri-sector, Let us go back to the drawing board and reidentify where we can be best competitive, and pour resources into it. Push and sustain the energy level until we can weather this festering over staying storm and see the daylight of economic gains for our people.
Stand up to the storm!