THE farm sector is facing a new threat created by the government itself—the Conditional Cash-Transfer Program, now known as the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program)—experts said.
According to Dr. Rene E. Ofreneo, former labor undersecretary and dean of the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Labor and Industrial Relations, the cash dole-outs being given by the government are driving farmers out of the agriculture sector, as they choose to be dependent on the financial assistance rather than engage in costly farming with low returns.
This is because the money they are getting from the 4Ps is higher than what they are earning from farming. “The money they get from 4Ps is higher than what they earn in actual farming. Most of the farmers, especially the individual ones, don’t take into account their cost of labor in the total cost of production, and if you add it to their inputs, they would even incur more loss,” Ofreneo told the BusinessMirror.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the total number of employed people in the agriculture sector declined by 2.89 percent to 10.985 million in 2016, from the 11.312 million recorded in 2015.
Of the figure, 9.719 million workers are in the agriculture, forestry and hunting subsector, while the remaining, or 1.266 million, are in the fisheries subsector, PSA data showed.
Workers in the agriculture sector made up the second-largest segment, accounting for 26.9 percent of the estimated 40.8 million employed persons in 2016, according to PSA data.
“The problem of the agriculture sector is it’s not only the sustainability in terms of environment, but also the sustainability in terms of farmers—if there would be still a next generation of farmers,” Ofreneo said.
“Another indication [of low employment rate in agriculture] is that fewer and fewer students are enrolling into agronomy,” Ofreneo said, citing the case of UP-Los Baños, where the number of enrollees in nonagriculture majors is higher than those in agriculture majors.
Arze Glipo, executive director of Integrated Rural Development Foundation said the government should distribute planting materials to farmer-beneficiaries under the 4Ps, rather than give them money.
“Farming is not profitable anymore due to expensive planting materials from the seeds, fertilizer and even the labor,” Glipo told the BusinessMirror.
“Instead of giving them subsidy in the form of cash, they should give seeds, fertilizers, planting inputs or machinery to the farmers,” Glipo added.
Glipo lauded the Department of Agriculture’s new loan program dubbed as the Survival and Recovery Loan program, which aims to give immediate aid to farmers affected by calamities for their sustenance and recovery of farms.
“If the farmers don’t get any support from the government, then their numbers would continue to decrease,” Glipo said.
Ofreneo said to boost employment in the agriculture sector, the government should implement programs that would help farmers become more involved in the whole value chain.
“Every individual farmer should be an agri-businessman or woman. To make money out of agriculture, farmers should master the whole value chain from seed preparation to supermarket shelves, because they remain poor if they are stuck in the production side,” Ofreneo said.