Kadiwa and high prices
I would have been at the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Office 5 at San Agustin, Pili Camarines Sur, in solidarity for its four-day “Buwan ng Magsasaka at Mangingisda” event for Masaganang Agrikultura, Maunlad na Ekonomiya from May 15-18, were it not for prior schedules and deadlines to beat. It would have been a pleasant occasion to socialize again with the farmer entrepreneurs, the green farm advocates, and the ordinary local sellers and buyers of agri-fishery products.
While writing my Bicol Mail column today, I learned that the festival features a “Vegetable Derby for Curry and Pili.” In addition, the DA event will showcase an agri-machinery demo capped with a stakeholders’ consultation tomorrow. The Tabang Bikol Movement was a recipient of DA’s citronella distillation machines in 2018, which now operate with the off-grid solar panel from the Department of Science and Technology to produce essential oils for domestic and market use. The People’s Organization of Disaster Survivors (PODiS) is the happy beneficiary, empowered and helping manage the TBM distillation plant at Berde Asul-Mariners in Baras, Canaman, Camarines Sur.
I missed the first-day opening titled, “Farmers’ Festival cum Kadiwa sa DA” the second Kadiwa big event of the regional DA in three months. But I think the first Kadiwa ng Pangulo in Bicol, launched last March 16 was unforgettable. It was then that Ferdinand Marcos, Jr made the famous presidential vow to “bring down the price of rice to PhP20 per kilo.” That created many “hmms and a-has!” in the social media and among the public. Nevertheless, community-based organizations, which TBM organized and continue to assist along with other DA partners, joined to sell and buy agriculture-based products. With a looming global food crisis, everyone needs a market. The provincial governor, Luigi Villafuerte, was upbeat that the first Kadiwa in Bicol was set up in Camarines Sur. Event organizers reported P1.2M in net sales on the second day.
It is a marketing initiative of DA, through the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance (AMAS), which seeks to “empower the farming community through its “Enhanced KADIWA Financial Grant Assistance” program to capacitate the farmers and fisherfolk cooperatives and associations (FCAs) to “as reliable and efficient food commodity suppliers.” Last year, the DA, with the President as concurrent secretary, launched the Kadiwa program as a market system that intends to remove intermediaries and allow food and agricultural products to be sold at lower prices direct to the public through retail online and direct selling nationwide through various stores. The DA website regularly announces various Kadiwa store launches with the TUCP, the Caritas, and some local church parishes in many regions, provinces, and cities/barangays. So far, it has only reached 1.5M people but DA says 931 farmers’ coops raised PhP235B. However, the President said Kadiwa stores are only temporary until the prices of basic commodities have stabilized. Kadiwa, according to the DA promotions, means “Katuwang sa Diwa at Gawa para sa Masaganang Ani at Mataas na Kita”. In Filipino, Kadiwa translates to “one spirit, one thought.”
It is of martial law origin, the brainchild of his parents, Ferdinand Marcos, Sr, and the former First Lady, Imelda Marcos. The idea for Kadiwa stores that sprouted all over the country decades ago was due to the 1973 and 1979 oil crises, which resulted in soaring food prices. Thousands of rolling stores sold food items like rice, cooking oil, sugar, milk, coffee, and noodles at subsidized prices to address scarcity or shortage of food and high prices. For a time, people from all walks of life, especially the poor, patiently lined up at the Kadiwa stores in long queues. The multi-funded National Food Authority (NFA) was the lead agency that supervised the Kadiwa stores along with the Food Terminal Inc. and the Metro Manila Commission (MMC). Presidential Decree (PD) 1770, signed in 1981, placed FTI and the Kadiwa under the NFA.
There was no election during martial law, and the politico-economic situation called for drastic measures. The grinding poverty, widespread corruption, internal violence, Mindanao crisis, and internecine political rivalries were escalating alongside the calls to end the so-called “conjugal dictatorship,” referring to the former President Ferdinand Marcos, Sr and the former First Lady, Imelda Marcos. With PD 1770, Mr. Marcos appointed Mrs. Marcos head of the NFA, FTI, and MMC. During this period, the NFA actively responded to the needs of the time to address poverty, especially food scarcity amid high prices, by operating mobile and retail stores in depressed areas. Mrs. Marcos was also appointed Minister of the Human Settlements. Government agricultural programs like the Masagana 99 and Green Revolution received more fund infusion geared toward self-sufficiency. The NFA, established in 1972, continued to be the primary agency under the DA responsible for ensuring food security and stability of rice supply and prices. However, studies have shown that many agricultural programs fail because of unsustainable credit schemes, bureaucratic red tape, patronage politics, inequitable land distribution, and rampant corrupt practices. Hoarding and overpricing became rampant.
In the face of drought, foreign debt sanctions, peso devaluation, unsustainable cheap prices for low agricultural output, high cost of importation, and sugar/rice shortage, Kadiwa stores closed through Executive Order 1028 in 1985. Kadiwa stores were resurrected in 1998 under Erap and in 2019 under Duterte. However, anomalies in the NFA began to surface, including “unaccounted and illegal transfer of funds” during the Kadiwa stores and Masagana 99 period.
Today, a similar situation persists. Last Monday, the President approved the additional importation of sugar to address the sugar shortage. Same problems, same solutions?