MANILA, Philippines – Despite being a predominantly agricultural country, there are only 12.27 million farmers in the Philippines.
Data recently released by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) showed that with this, the share of the agriculture sector in the country’s total employment declined to 33% in 2011 or an average decline of 1.5% since 2007.
The BAS said that in 2011, bulk of the employed people in agriculture were located in Western Visayas at 1.22 million. The number of farmers in CALABARZON, Bicol Region and Caraga has been falling.
“The number of gainfully employed persons in agriculture measures the extent of absorption of the available manpower supply in agriculture and its contribution to the total economy,” the BAS said.
The decline in the number of farmers may be due to the fact that the agriculture sector pays farmers so little. The BAS said the average basic wage paid to agricultural workers in the country amounted to P158.20 per day in 2011.
This represented only an average increase of 4.5% between 2007 and 2011. It can be noted that during this period, the country’s average inflation rate was pegged at 4.76%.
Previously, Senator Francis Pangilinan, Chair of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, said ordinary farmers’ and fisherfolk’s salaries averaged P17,000 per year.
The BAS said the basic wage of fishermen was higher at P178.43 per day than those in agriculture, hunting and forestry at P156.81 per day.
“However, agriculture, hunting and forestry posted higher wage gain averaged 4.7 percent. Fishing had 2.9 percent wage increment,” the BAS said.
Food security in danger?
With low gains, the number of children aged 5 to 17 years old working in farms has also been declining since 2007.
The BAS said the number of children working in the sector nationwide fell to 1.26 million in 2010 or an average decline of 4% since 2007.
The decline in interest among children has also caused a drop in the number of agriculture students. Educators believe this poses a serious threat to the country’s agricultural labor force and eventually to food security.
Dr. Jesusita Coladilla of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) School of Environmental Science and Management (SESAM) said less than 1 in 10 students in the university are enrolled in agriculture courses.
She said this will lead to a shortage of capable professionals in the agriculture sector, which will endanger the country’s food supply, especially at a time when the government is pursuing a roadmap for self-sufficiency in rice and other staples by 2016.
In the past 30 years, enrollment in agriculture courses steadily declined from 51% of the total students enrolled in 1980 to 43% in 1995. In 2012, only 4.7% of the population of students in UPLB are enrolled in the course major.
“The trend is similar in other higher education institutes offering BS Agriculture programs, an indication that agriculture is becoming the least appealing career choice,” said Coladilla. “Even a typical farmer would not advise his children to get into an agricultural career.” – Rappler.com