AGRI Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee has underscored the need to urgently address the lack of post-harvest facilities that could have contributed to low local production and soaring food prices amid the high prices of agricultural products, such as onions and other vegetables.
In a statement issued Friday, Lee renewed his call for additional post-harvest facilities following the remarks made by Ramon Silverio, chairman of the Kaakibat Provincial Cooperative Council, during a briefing conducted by the House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture and Food on Jan. 25 regarding the state of the country’s onion industry.
During the briefing, Silverio said while the government has more than adequate programs on production, there appears to be a lack of programs in the marketing of their products, especially during the harvest season.
“Sana po pagdating naman ng anihan, doon sa pagbebenta naman ng produkto, dapat po matulungan din ninyo po kami kung paano (We are hoping that when the harvest season comes, you could also help us market our products),” the farmer leader said.
“Dapat malagyan na po kaagad ng cold storage para naman po meron namang karapatan ang magsasaka na magtakda ng presyo ng kanilang ani (Cold storage facilities should be immediately provided so that farmers may also have the right to set the price for their harvest).”
Lee said he had been calling for immediate action on the lack of post-harvest facilities during the deliberations for the 2023 national budget.
He pointed out that there are not enough agricultural products reaching the market due to extremely high post-harvest losses.
There is also the need to re-strategize the country’s agriculture value chain to ensure that products have a direct link to markets and consumers, he said.
“Napakalaki ng diperensya sa pondong ipinagkakaloob para sa pre-harvest activities kumpara sa inilalaan sa post-harvest facilities and services. Napakaraming dinadaanan ng produkto bago makarating sa merkado (There is a huge difference in the budget provided for pre-harvest activities compared to that intended for post-harvest facilities and services. Farm products have to pass through a lot before reaching the market). The government must improve and facilitate farm-to-market linkages and provide additional support to post-harvest facilities,” the lawmaker from Sorsogon said.
Under the 2023 National Budget, PHP48.23 billion was allocated for pre-harvest activities while only PHP17.14 billion was allotted for post-harvest facilities and services.
A big chunk of the budget for post-harvest facilities this year will be implemented by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech).
According to Lee, he met with PhilMech Director Dr. Dionisio Alvindia during last year’s budget briefing and, on several occasions, reiterated the need to expeditiously provide more support for post-harvest facilities, to which the latter agreed and committed to implementing.
“Patuloy tayong magbabantay at makikipag-ugnayan sa DA at PhilMech sa usaping ito. Hindi dapat hinahayaang matengga ang pondo. Dapat gamitin ito agad sa mga pasilidad na magpapataas sa kita at produksyon ng mga magsasaka at mangingisda, na magpapababa naman sa presyo ng bilihin. Sa estratehiyang ito, winner tayo lahat (We will continue to monitor and coordinate with the DA and PhilMech on this issue. Funds should not be allowed to remain idle. They must be immediately used for facilities that would raise the production and profit of farmers and fishermen, which in turn would reduce the prices of commodities. With this strategy, we are all winners),” Lee said.
This 19th Congress, Lee has also filed House Bill 3958, or the Post-Harvest Facilities Support Act, compelling the government to construct and provide post-harvest facilities across the country, particularly in agricultural areas, to reduce post-harvest production losses and increase the income of agriculture workers. (PNA)