Group to new agri chief: solve rice crisis, help coconut farmers

Group to new agri chief: solve rice crisis, help coconut farmers

By: - Correspondent / @dtmallarijrINQ
/ 04:45 AM November 06, 2023

Group to new agri chief: solve rice crisis, help coconut farmers

COPRA MAKING | Coconut farmers work at their copra-making shack in Unisan town in Quezon province in this photo taken in 2016. Farmers in coconut-growing provinces in the country are still waiting for their benefits from the coconut levy fund. (Photo by DELFIN T. MALLARI JR. / Inquirer Southern Luzon)

LUCENA CITY, Quezon, Philippines — Peasants’ group Kilusan Para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan) has a wish list for newly appointed Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr.: solve the rice crisis and help coconut farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries.

“The long wait is over. He is coming in as the crisis in agriculture is deepening due to years of neglect and lack of support for local farmers and agricultural producers,” said Danny Carranza, secretary general of Katarungan, in a statement over the weekend.


On Friday, President Marcos appointed Laurel, his childhood friend and a fishing tycoon, as his replacement as Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary, 16 months after he took on the post on assuming the presidency.



The peasant group hoped to see the new DA chief address major problems besetting the country’s agriculture, particularly “the runaway food inflation” that made vital staples, like rice, “increasingly more difficult to afford among ordinary citizens.”

Carranza noted that the government policy of rice importation under the rice tariffication law “failed to make rice affordable and accessible with rice supply on the brink of shortage oftentimes.”

He also appealed to Laurel to help the coconut farmers who remained among the poorest in the country.

“The vast majority of coconut farmers do not have access to or are not getting support for value-adding activities despite the availability of the recovered coconut levy fund,” Carranza said.

He asked Laurel to take a look at Republic Act No. 11524 or the Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund Act, the law crafted for the management and utilization of the more than P100-billion coconut levy fund.

Carranza lamented that small coconut farmers have yet to feel the benefits provided under RA 11524.


The law, which was passed in 2020, aims to finance the programs under the Coconut Farmers and Industry Development Plan that will be taken from the coconut levy fund.

The coconut levy fund, now with the government, was estimated to be around P100 billion, at least P75 billion of which is in cash and the rest in assets, such as coconut mills.

However, small farmers were having a hard time benefiting from the coconut levy fund, particularly the unorganized coconut farmers groups, according to Carranza.

Carranza also asked Laurel to help the more than 3 million agrarian reform beneficiaries nationwide in terms of providing them support services, which has been neglected for a long time.

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“They can be transformed into productive smallholder farmers that will surely contribute to the country’s increased food production and agricultural output,” he added.

TAGS: Department of Agriculture, Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., rice prices, rice shortage

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