Monday, August 13, 2007

Farming and government support

My friend from Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, Nguyen Chi Trung, also a batchmate from SUS 2003 seminar on "sustainable agriculture" held in Sweden, commented on my earlier posting re. government support on farming. He wrote,

"Dear Nonoy and friends, I completely agree with you that farmers should not expect so much from support and subsidy in any form. However, at least in this stage, the number of independent farmers like yourself is not much, and remember that farming is your moonlight play, not the main livelihood. For most farmers, subsidy is still playing an important role. Generally speaking, most farmers could not attend my lectures, if I were not paid by the state or a project. Similarly, I could have never been attended the SUS 2003 training without the kind sponsor from SIDA."

Well, Trung is right. Before I get misinterpreted, let me say that I am not advocating zero government support in agriculture. One government support that I see is very helpful to farmers, are farm-to-market roads and bridges, and irrigation. Good roads support not only farmers but also their children who go to school, their spouses who go the public markets, etc. But beyond infrastructure support, the impact of most government support to farmers are little. Like price support and credit support.

Many agricultural economists and consultants propose that governments should focus on "production support", not "price support", like government buying "high" from farmers and selling "low" to consumers. In this kind of scheme, a lot of waste and corruption are happening.

For the "independent farmers", they are driven more by bigger profit when they harvest their crops and fruits, and less of any subsidy that they can get from government. For mango producers like Cocor Soriano (SUS 2006) and me, there are almost zero government support for mango production, but we continue producing because the price of mango is good very often, not to mention that our families and friends get to taste our very sweet mangos.

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