Gov't urged to step up organic agri program amid new round of oil price hike
Koronadal City (22 June) -- Organic farming advocates on Sunday called on the government to step up the implementation of its organic agriculture program to help farmers cope with the impact of the successive oil price hikes this month.
Lawyer Atty. Efren Moncupa, lead convenor of Go Organic! Philippines, a consortium of organic farming advocates that aggressively promotes organic farming in the Philippines, said the oil price hikes imposed by oil companies this month will impact on all sectors, but will hit harder on the agriculture sector particularly farmers who remain 'hooked' to using chemical fertilizers.
"The domino effect of this oil price hike will hit the poorest of the poor - particularly farmers who will be burdened by increases in the price of basic commodities," he said.
He expressed alarm over reports that this month's oil price hikes is just the beginning.
Quoting Fernando Martinez, chairman of the Independent Philippine Petroleum Companies Association, who warned that consumers should expect more rate increases should prices at the Mean of Platts Singapore (MOPS), the pricing benchmark used by local oil firms, continue to go up.
"If the MOPS will continue to go on a higher level for the remaining days of the week-it has already $79 per barrel-then you can expect further increases," Martinez was quoted as saying.
Moncupa said because of the recent oil price hike, other costs of living or necessities, such as transportation, health, housing, and education are expected to go sky high.
Worse, he said the oil price hikes are likely to trigger another round of increase in the price of chemical fertilizers, which will add burden to the already burdened farmers who are still hooked to conventional farming.
"Farmers have long been complaining of having nothing to eat only a week or two after harvests. Ironically, they are the ones producing food for the Filipinos," he said.
The government needs to fast track the implementation of its organic agriculture programs to help farmers survive the global fiscal and economic crisis, he said.
He warned that any increase in the price of chemical fertilizers, which now costs around P1,200 to P1,500 will also have an adverse effect to the country's annual food production. Farmers who have no capital, he said, will have no other choice but to leave their farms and look for other source of income," he said.
However, Moncupa said farmers will have a better option through its organic agriculture program, particularly the ones that will strengthen the farmers' individual and collective capacity to shift to organic farming.
The Organic FIELDS Support Program Phase 1 launched in November 2008 by no less than Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap officially ended in May. A partnership project between the Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Soils and Water Management and the Go Organic! Philippines, OFSP1 enabled farmers in six provinces in Luzon, namely Albay, Camarines Sur, Oriental Mindoro, Nueva Ecija, Bataan and Pangasinan to shift to organic farming.
The successful implementation of the project, which provided for the right program and broad based support from local government units and the different sectors did only half of the job. "Much more needs to be done," he said.
Moncupa said Phase 2 of the program will enable the proponents of OFSP to contribute to the DA's target of covering 400,000 hectares of agricultural land for organic production of rice, vegetables, crops and livestock by 2010.
"This is the time for the government to fast track its programs that will promote sustainable agriculture in the Philippines to help farmers and consumers cope with the crisis," he said. (Go Organic! Philippines/PIA 12) [top]