Seven years ago, Sen. Francis N. Pangilinan expressed alarm over the apparent disinterest of young Filipinos to go into farming. Pangilinan, who previously headed the Senate Committee on Food and Agriculture, said the average age of Filipino farmers is 57 years old and that a new generation of farmers is needed to ensure the country’s food security. He noted that the young were not excited about farming because it was not a viable source of income.
During a presentation on the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) budget for 2012, officials disclosed that the annual income of farmers averaged only P17,000 in 2009. This meant that their monthly income reached only P2,000 a month. The amount was not even enough to buy rice and other basic necessities.
The figures released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in 2017 did not help to dispel the notion that farming in the Philippines is a backbreaking work that offers little reward. Data from the PSA released in June 2017 showed that five of the nine basic sectors have higher poverty incidence than the general population. Among the nine basic sectors, the PSA said farmers and fishermen consistently posted the highest poverty incidence. Poverty incidence among farmers and fishermen reached 34.3 percent and 34 percent, respectively. The figure is higher than the 2015 poverty incidence of 21.6 percent.
In another report, titled “Updated Production Costs and Returns of Selected Agricultural Commodities,” released last October the PSA disclosed that the gross receipts from planting rice averaged P67,436 per hectare in 2016. The net returns averaged P19,811 per hectare. For every peso of investment in palay production, rice farmers earned an average of P0.42. According to the same report, corn farmers grossed an average of P34,664 per hectare and netted P12,366 per hectare.
These figures can be disheartening, particularly to those who till an average farm area of only 1 hectare. According to a PSA report released in 2015, about 98 percent of the total farms/holdings in the Philippines in 2012 were 7 hectares and below. Of these, 3 in every 5 farms/holdings were below 1 hectare, with an average area of 0.28 hectare per farm/holding.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said earlier that his dream is to entice the youth to go into farming. One of his proposals is to teach agriculture subjects to elementary and high- school students. This is to make it easier for them to go into “entrepreneurial farming” or “agripreneurship.”
But this venture requires the government’s firm resolve to help the current breed of farmers transition into “agripreneurship and to develop the youth’s interest in farming.” Former Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said farmers must be given access to credit, capacity training, and links to manufacture and trade, initiatives that cannot be done without financial support from the government.
The Duterte administration has shown its resolve in fighting the drug menace. It is hoped that the same resolve will be seen in helping farmers become productive agripreneurs.