THE government’s farm-to-market road (FMR) masterplan is less of a priority at the moment than ensuring that farmers gain access to affordable inputs and are insulated from excessive competition from imports, agriculture industry representatives said.
“Right now, the high cost of inputs, and to a lesser extent, fuel, are the most pressing problems. Then we have to find a way to manage imports and assure farmers of reasonable prices for their products and incentives for them to continue producing,” Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said in a Viber message.
Nevertheless, he said, “There is a huge backlog in the farm-to-market and rural infrastructure programs, especially since priority funding has often gone to urban roads and infrastructure. Poor rural infrastructure results in high transport and marketing costs that translate into lower prices for farmers’ products and high prices for their farm inputs and needs, and at the other end, high prices for consumers.”
President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., who is also the Agriculture Secretary, said in a briefing on Monday that he is tasking Department of Agriculture officials to come up with an FMR masterplan to address food security concerns.
An association of fisherfolk, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) said the FMR masterplan is not as large a concern as securing domestic production.
“What is the purpose of farm-to-market roads if there are no products to deliver since production is down? Costs are high. Roads and infrastructure are not the solution to ensure food security. We need to support actual producers of food,” the group said in a statement.
PAMALAKAYA spokesman Ronnel S. Arambulo said that a significant number of the rural population employed in the fishery and agriculture have left their farms and fishing grounds due to the high cost of production, chief among them fuel.
“In the fishing sector, for instance, fuel takes up almost 80% of the production cost in a small-scale fishing operation. Mr. Marcos should first address low productivity among our rural sectors before anything else,” he said.
“If Mr. Marcos wants a comprehensive plan on food security, he should certify this production subsidy bill as urgent to ensure that aside from mobility, there would be enough agriculture and fisheries products to (send to market),” he added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson