(From the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Article by Kristine Alave.)
The country’s food security is at risk as millions of farmers and fishermen are getting too old for what is back-breaking work and their children are not keen on taking over for lack of incentive to do so, agriculture and other officials said Thursday.
Tomatoes, growing from a farm in Amadeo, Cavite, just outside Tagaytay City.
The officials said that the younger generation, who saw their parents grow old and poor in farming, do not see agriculture as a lucrative career.
According to data shown by officials at the Senate hearing on the Department of Agriculture’s 2012 budget, the average age of the country’s 11 million farmers and fishermen is 57.
Many of the farmers are small landholders, tilling an average of 2.5 hectares.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said he recently met five farmers in Laguna, whose ages ranged between 60 and 78. “All of them are old. Their children do not want to go into farming,” he said at Thursday’s hearing.
There might come a time when the country will not have enough farmers and fishermen to grow and produce food, he warned.
“This is really a threat to our food security efforts,” the senator said. He added that the country’s rice supply will be one area that will be significantly affected by the loss of farmers.
The children and grandchildren of farmers and fishermen would rather go to the cities or migrate abroad than continue the farming tradition, Pangilinan said. For them, farming is not a way out of poverty.
“Their grandfathers were poor, their fathers were poor,” the senator said.
Data from the Department of Agriculture show that farming in the Philippines cannot support a family.
According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, a farmer’s annual average income is about P20,000.
“This is less than P2,000 a month,” Pangilinan said, adding it was no wonder farming was not a very attractive occupation for Filipinos.
Pineapples are abundant in Metro Tagaytay. These were picked from a farm in Amadeo, Cavite.
In other countries, farmers are considered entrepreneurs and businessmen, Pangilinan noted. But in the Philippines, many farmers are still eking out subsistence farming that barely provides for their families even if their contribution to the Philippine economy is massive.
According to the DA, the agriculture and fishery sectors contribute nearly 20 percent to the country’s gross domestic product.
Acknowledging the problem, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said there was a need to raise the income of farmers to entice the younger generation and the overseas Filipino workers to go into agriculture. He noted that the DA seeks to raise by two to four percent the income of Filipino agriculture workers by 2016.
But even that increase is minimal, Pangilinan said. He said that the Philippine government should invest heavily in the agriculture sector to modernize it and improve yields.
Furthermore, farmers, fruit growers, and fishermen should learn new technologies. In his visit to Laguna, Pangilinan said the farmers said they planted only rice when they could plant other crops to increase their earnings.
In a previous interview, Pangilinan said agriculture workers should learn better technologies and study the science of farming. As farming involves so many variables such as weather and soil composition, a farmer should learn how to be exact in his technology and methods, he said.
Pangilinan urged the DA to step up marketing support for farmers.
Read the rest of the article here.