By Jasper Y. Arcalas, May 7 2019; Business Mirror

Image Credit to Business World

The Department of Agriculture (DA) would start providing farmers with farm inputs they prefer and they find suitable in their area to ensure higher farm productivity after Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol ordered some changes in the department’s procurement process.

Piñol on Monday directed all DA’s bids and awards committee (BAC) nationwide to include the end-users’ preference in every terms of references (TOR) of biddings and procurements.

Piñol added that the change in the procurement system would ensure that farmers would receive the right farm inputs, especially the ones that they prefer and are proven to be effective in their respective regions.

He made the directive at the opening of the Farmers and Fisherfolks’ Month, which is celebrated annually every month of May. Piñol said he would issue an administrative order to formalize his directive.

“This is what the President wants: to change the procurement program and process wherein the government has always been the one deciding on the interventions to be given to farmers,” he said.

“This practice has to end now because the President would like to change the system. And this is a major policy [change],” Piñol added.

The agriculture chief explained that farmers tend to complain with the farm inputs provided by the government, saying these are either substandard or not suitable in their area.

Due to this, the intention of government interventions to improve farm productivity is delayed, as they have to repeat the procurement process all over again, he added.

“If we are going to buy seeds for them, then who are we to tell the farmers what seeds should they use? The farmers know what seeds are the best for them based on their experience,” Piñol said.

“That’s why we decided that once and for all, we will address this, and this is in compliance with the desire of the President to really come up with a procurement program that is responsive to the needs of the end users,” he added.

The agriculture chief has floated changes in procurement system, particularly in seeds procurement, before.

However, he said, the change was not incorporated in the terms of reference, hence, it was not institutionalized.

Piñol said he doesn’t see any conflict with any existing laws with the procurement changes that he wants to implement in the DA.

“The directive of the President is very clear: The procurement programs of the government should be effective in the context of providing answers to the needs of the agencies conducting the procurement,” he said, adding that he is within his legal authority to make changes toward better governance.

Furthermore, Piñol said the proposed changes in procurement system would not cost the government more since some of the suppliers that offer high-quality farm inputs are winning bids in the current system.

More so, he added, it may even save the government expenses in the long run as they don’t have to redo biddings as the interventions given to the farmers are already the ones they prefer.

“It is not really right to say that we are willing to spend more, but we are willing to invest properly in equipment and goods that will ensure greater productivity,” he said.

“What if the goods are really cheap, but after sales, [such goods] do not have any durability at all. Then in the end the government is at the losing end. In the long run, [the changes] will be great savings on the part of the government,” he added.

Furthermore, Piñol said he would also issue an administrative order that would mandate the participation of intended farmer beneficiaries in every bidding and procurement that the government would undertake.

Nonetheless, Piñol added, they would still study possible legal impediments that could hinder his proposed procurement changes, particularly in terms of limiting competition among bidders.