Characterized by vast tracts of rice fields, sandwiched by cordilleras protecting them from typhoons, the Philippines has always been an agricultural haven. With around 45.2% of the nation’s land being dedicated to the production of various agricultural produce, as estimated by the World Bank, and over 40% of Filipino workers employed and reliant on the Agricultural sector according to the Department of Agriculture, it’s no wonder then that the nation often sees problems in the oversupply of agricultural produce.
Just five days after the New Year arrived, netizens of Dalaguete, Southern Cebu, recounted that a cabbage farmer opted to simply give away his harvest of Cabbages rather than throw them away due to the extremely low price of cabbages compared to the costs of retaining them. Much more recently, just two days ago, cabbage farmers in Benguet dumped their supplies of cabbages in landfills due to, again, its extremely low price. Even a few weeks before the New Year, Benguet vegetable farmers have already been dumping vegetables due to a sheer drop in vegetable prices (a puzzling one at that, considering the lead-up to our Noche Buenas and Media Noches), as well as oversupplies in Mankayan Carrots from April of 2023, and in Garlic from Batanes way back in September of 2022.
One would think that these constant oversupplies of vegetables would mean that the Philippines is experiencing an abundance of food, and therefore relative lowering of prices. Reality would prove this to not be the case, when in fact in August of 2023, the Nomura Food Vulnerability Index listed the nation as the most vulnerable to surges in food prices among emerging economies in Asia, projecting a 20% increase in Food Prices by the end of the year.
What’s more, the Philippines, despite allocating around 4.8 Million Hectares of that 45.2% of land to Rice Alone, still experiences almost constant shortages in Rice. This extreme oversight led to some places experiencing an increase reaching around 10 pesos per kilo of rice for well-milled brands, leading many to resort to either rice of lower quality, some not even meant for human consumption, or to simply cut it out of their diets. The same has occurred for sugar as well, with markedly low outputs and incidences of hoarding leading to massive price increases for such an important staple in Filipino cuisines.
The thing is, despite the fact that 10.66 million Filipino Workers rely on Agricultural work to subsist, the Agricultural Sector only accounts for 10% of the nation’s GDP. What’s more, the Philippines has, for a long time, been a Food Importer, and not an Exporter, with around 13.5% of the nation’s total imports being food alone. What’s more, a ton of staple foods in the country have been reliant on imports for the nation’s supply, namely rice, corn, and wheat, among other things. And it's not like the government doesn’t know about this either, with the Philippine Statistics Authority remarking way back in 2019 that almost a quarter of all foodstuffs in the country are imported.
It’s no wonder then that the poverty incidence of farmers and fisherfolk is almost double the national average, at 30%.
When our own government refuses to support the very hands that plant our palay, the very feet submerged in those paddies, in favor of supporting the Landlords owning the fields they farm and the Compradors insisting that their foreign produce be used to supplement our increasingly ailing supplies; When agriculture companies produce record profits whilst our farmers are paid pittances to barely scrape by, is it a wonder then that the nation can experience both phenomena of food supplies being dumped to prevent lowering of prices, as well as that of the constant shortages slowly choking the people, bleeding wallets dry until there’s barely enough for what would’ve been a relatively rich family 10 years ago to scrape by today?
It should be quite obvious then, after years upon years of failed land and economic reforms, that this is a problem inherent to the system. When our economy incentivizes farmers to throw away perfectly good produce, to create artificial shortages to maintain prices, all the while the people seek the bottom of the barrel just to put food on the table, is it truly worth spending precious time and political power in an attempt to fix it? When some farmers become so desperate as to grab a rifle and rebel, is it really worth saving a burning house instead of building a new one with the mistakes of the old in mind?
Dear reader, are you really content to starve while watching the excesses all around you?