Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Is the outright sale of the FTI the answer?

The government should “reconsider” the decision to sell the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) complex in Taguig and, instead, find ways to ensure food supply flowing to the metropolis.

We are making great headway, as far as public-private partnerships are concerned, in addressing the myriad issues that threaten food security in the country. Government should reconsider the sale of the entire property in light of the critical effort at achieving food security and access to markets.

The goal of the FTI was to have a food terminal where farmers can drop off their produce so as to bypass the middlemen and allow them to go direct to the market. The biggest market locally is Metro Manila, and direct access to that market would mean better prices for the consumer and higher incomes for a sector that remains poor.

Let’s zero in on increasing the farmers’ incomes. If we secure our farmers and fisherfolk, we achieve food security.

The planned sale of the FTI began a few years back, before the spectre of spiraling world food prices hit us in 2008. We need to rethink the policy given serious major developments in food security requirements.

Let’s look at the objectives of selling the property. If it is for the benefit of the agricultural sector then funds should be used to strengthen the capability of FTI in its role of providing access to markets. Let’s look for other, more creative solutions to retool the FTI. Market access is key to upping our farmers’ income.

Is the outright sale of the FTI the answer? Whether the property is sold or leased out, the proceeds must be plowed back to the agricultural sector, whose budget was cut in 2011. The funds should be used to increase public investments in the agriculture sector such as irrigation, farm to market roads and the construction of post harvest facilities. If we are to privatize what was originally meant to revolutionize the agricultural sector of the country, then it is this sector, first and foremost, that should benefit from this move.

We need to think and do things differently in light of a looming food crisis. Let’s explore the power of partnerships and do so in a way that will ensure the sustainability of our agricultural sector, and adequate and low-priced food supply to our people.

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