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[B-SIDE Podcast] Weathering the storm: how to protect the farming sector from typhoons

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Typhoon season isn’t over. Before 2020 finally says goodbye, two to three more storms could make landfall and wreak havoc on a country that’s already been battered by storm after storm after storm. 

The Department of Agriculture (DA) estimates that the farming sector incurred losses worth P6.72 billion from Typhoon Ulysses alone.

Raul Q. Montemayor, national manager of the Federation of Free Farmers, talks about the impact of these natural calamities on Filipino farmers and how to protect them. Mr. Montemayor gives BusinessWorld reporter Revin Mikhail D. Ochave a crash course on the effects of the Rice Tariffication Law and what the agriculture sector will look like, moving forward.

TAKEAWAYS

Farmers need data and support that is location-specific in order to increase their preparedness and resiliency.

The DA has to translate data from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration into localized information that is useful to farmers. In addition to knowing when it’s going to rain, where, and how much, farmers need to know if the amount of expected rain is too much or too little for a certain crop at a certain stage of planting, said Mr. Montemayor. 

“The needs of communities and farming areas are different,” he said.

Agriculture may not be the bright spot that the DA is making it out to be.

“I’m not surprised that agriculture had positive growth. We are comparing [2020] to 2019, which was a drought year,” Mr. Montemayor said, who characterized the reported growth as “deceptive.” He added: “We are just back to where started. I don’t call that a big achievement.”

According to Mr. Montemayor, the DA tends to oversell its achievements: “Our impression is that they [the DA] have a lot of hype in mass media, in public statements, but compare that with the feedback we get from the field, it is not the case.” 

The Rice Tarrification Law could become a political issue in the next election.

“It’s growing—the sense of desperation and the disappointment in the government,” said Mr. Montemayor, who wants stronger language on safeguards for farmers; the return of licensing as a better way to manage imports; and the clarification of the role of the National Food Authority.

“You go to the field, it’s all the same. It’s the same problems and, to some extent, even worse problems now than before. I’m a little bit pessimistic,” said Mr. Montemayor.

This episode was recorded remotely on November 17. Produced by Nina M. Diaz, Paolo L. Lopez, and Sam L. Marcelo.

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