Most corn farmers in Mindanao living below poverty line

Is this true? So they do not benefit the much trumpeted corn industry and the feed mills, too?  I’ve delved into this issue five years ago, too. It’s frustrating the figures hasn’t changed.

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 March) – Mindanao may be the country’s top
corn producer, but an island-wide showed that 61 percent of its corn farmers
have remained below the poverty threshold despite cultivating the crop for
the last two decades.

The study, conducted by the Corn Capital Cooperative, covered 468 corn
farmers from Mindanao’s six regions, said Jesus B. Pring Jr., cooperative
chairman.

The results of the study were presented to the recently concluded 1st
Mindanao Corn Farmers’ Congress in Banga, South Cotabato, which claims to be
the “Corn Capital of the Philippines.”

“[Of the figure], 290 respondents have been planting corn for the last two
decades with no economic gains or still below the poverty level,” Pring said.

He noted that the average income of majority of the respondents remained low
at P9,265.70 per hectare per cropping season.

The government’s policy of allowing the importation of corn was cited as one
reason for the unchanged conditions of corn farmers in the island.

By mid-year, 200,000 metric tons of imported corn is expected to arrive in
the country, with another 200,000 metric tons on “standby” to come not later
than 2007.

Corn can be planted thrice a year as one cropping cycle lasts only between
three and four months.

But Hernani Pedregoza, a local farmer leader, doubted that corn would uplift
the plight of farmers, pointing out that many of them in South Cotabato have
shifted to cassava production due higher production expenses.

“Moreover, buying price of corn is unstable and is very low,” he told
MindaNews.

Mr. Pring echoed the sentiments of Mr. Pedregoza, stressing that in their
survey, almost all of the respondents complained of very high production
costs and low buying price.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap claimed the government is addressing the
low buying price of corn in the commercial market by establishing trading
centers cum post harvest facilities.

There are presently two trading centers in Southwestern Mindanao, in Kabacan
North Cotabato and in Banga town, run by the National Agribusiness Corp.

Mr. Yap said he talked with a corn farmer and was told that private traders
in the area buy their product at P6 to P7 per kilo.

Mindanao’s total corn output of 3.42 million metric tons contributes 56
percent to the country’s total harvest of 6.08 million metric tons in 2006.

The survey conducted by the group of Mr. Pring also basically scored the
government’s failure to address the plight of corn farmers.

It noted the lack of farm-to-market roads or the poor conditions of existing
ones, delaying the transport of their crop to trading centers in urban areas.

Earlier, it was reported that a corn farmer in North Cotabato committed
suicide for failing to bring his produce on time because the waters in a
river swelled. His yield was rejected by a trader because of molds.

Mr. Pring also pointed out that corn farmers are not getting the best seeds
from the government’s procurement and distribution program.

There is also a lack of government’s honest to goodness monitoring of the
Ginintuang Masaganang Ani corn program at the municipal or barangay level,
he added. (MindaNews)

About mindanaw

A Journalist from Mindanao

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