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The present and (hopefully) the future of Animal Agriculture in the Philippines

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The View From Taft

What would a meal look like in 31 years? That is the big question scientists are now urging governments and private institutions to answer. By 2050, the global population is expected to rise to 10 billion with no assurance that all those mouths will be fed.

Our stomachs are stuck to primal cravings: meat, meat, and more meat. With the rise in popularity of the unlimited Korean pork fare or samgyeopsal comes the unprecedented increase in demand for this delectable fatty pork. The process of breeding and, dare I say, slaughtering these animals, is what is called Animal Agriculture. According to Cameron & Cameron (2017), Animal Agriculture is so prevalent globally that we are literally choking the Earth. How so?

In 2017, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations forecast an increase in food demand from 59% to 98% by 2050. Therefore, both big and small scale farmers must adjust their production, causing an increase in green house gas emissions.

The Philippine Statistics Authority’s January-March 2019 brief reported a massive surge in the commercial inventory of cattle, swine or pig, and chicken. Surprisingly, their combined increase of 13.39% was still not enough to sustain the Philippines’ population of 108.12 million. Proof is that the undernutrition rate amongst children aged 0 to 5 is at its highest in 10 years at 26.2%.

GOVERNMENT SUPPORT
It is imperative that the government act upon this issue. President Ferdinand Marcos implemented Presidential Decree No. 914, or the protection and creation of powers for the Livestock Development Council under the Department of Agriculture. It is a regulatory body which oversees livestock production to ensure its efficiency and sustainability. However, it turns out that this was counterintuitive. Imports of livestock and poultry increased by 5.6%, worth a staggering $261 billion. I guess, we Filipinos really do love that unlimited Korean barbeque!

Furthermore, Senate Bill No. 1758, an effort to restructure the current industry while still supporting an already crippled food system, is still pending for approval. Senator Cynthia Villar’s bill proposes to rethink livestock development and focus efforts on Filipino farmers. Unfortunately, this bill did not provide avenues for small scale farmers to have access to capital. Instead, it focused on improving pre-existing infrastructure without addressing how to reduce the risk of investing in agriculture.

These policies are glaringly inefficient, especially since the Department of Agriculture has recently asked for an additional budget of P70.3 billion. The request is both warranted and unwarranted because of the equally unprecedented decline of farming in the Philippine heartlands. The capital intensity in agriculture is driving our farmers away from their farms and towards congested cities where they serve a lesser purpose.

buffalo carabao farmer
PEXELS_ARCHIE BINAMIRA

To think the government can have a hand in changing this. Banks and financing terms can be overhauled to be more inclusive to small and medium-scale farmers. Once the appropriate institutions have segued into a more inclusive organizations, these farmers consequently have to rethink their own practices. The two most realistic and still profitable changes are Livestock with Care and Precision Farming.

SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS APPROACH
On top of the partnership of the public and private sector, a slightly more radical approach can be taken. The government or any crazy rich Filipino must consider a Sustainable Food Systems Approach.

This approach considers how to adjust food production according to population growth, urbanization, changing consumer patterns and climate change. All of which are not considered in the slightest in current Animal Agriculture practices. A Sustainable Food System (SFS) approach has three main components; Economic, Social, and Environmental impact. Achieving a successful integration between these three will provide a fiscally viable equal distribution of sustainably grown nutritious food.

Better policies will allow capital-poor farmers to access resources for the system to be more profitable for both the farmers and the investors. Doing so will deliver immediate benefit to consumers. Who will be the main drivers of inclusive eco-social growth? For the FAO, holistic value creation is a cycle starting from the institutions up top.

The Animal Agriculture industry is challenged by unbridled globalization. Our policymakers have forgone self-sufficiency and have reverted to dependency. First, the feed used to sustain these animals is imported. Second, land used to breed these animals are loaned. Third, these breeders are often uneducated and lack proper government/private support. Financing institutions lend or borrow capital at such ungodly rates that ultimately deplete these farmer’s profit margins. Fourth, there is no research and development in finding alternatives to address the gap between the producer and consumer. While meat alternatives is not a popular topic to consider, at our current fertility rate we need all possible solutions to address this looming crisis.

If our policymakers continue to beat around the bush, only to stuff more taxpayer money down their matte Himalaya Niloticus crocodile Birkin bags, Filipinos will probably be end up eating kangkong (swamp cabbage) three times a day.

 

Judith Marie D. Siapno is an undergraduate marketing management student in De La Salle University.

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