Corruption in the Philippine dairy industry has got Agriculture Secretary, Manny Piñol‘s goat – literally. He is seething. Money, earmarked for the country’s struggling milk-production programme has been lost to unscrupulous government officials and dishonest goat traders in a scam that takes the cash for pedigree dairy animals in return for supplying old and inferior creatures.
The infusion of new herds – funded by the United States Agency for International Development, or, USAID – was meant to genetically improve the local stock and boost the quality and volume of milk output.
Apparently, this scam has been running for a number of years, but like so much of what’s being going on in the country, it is only coming to light now. Piñol – a goat farmer by trade – is determined to get to the bottom of it, however, and has ordered an inventory of imported goats which hopefully will lead him to those involved.
For the embattled Department of Agriculture (DOT) and the dairy sector in particular, it is another headache. Although the national goat herd has less than 2,000 animals – some 22,500 dairy cows and around 17,300 dairy carabao are responsible for the bulk of domestic milk output – the goat finance would have gone a long way to establishing a niche market for goat milk, goat-milk cheese and goat-milk soap. Currently under 2% of all Philippine-produced milk comes from goats.
But the whole of the country’s milk industry is in bad shape. Total annual output is around 20 million litres – a paltry 1.05% of the 1.9 billion litres required by Filipino consumers. Dairy imports last year amounted to 1.74 billion litres – the bulk of that coming from New Zealand, the country’s largest supplier, the US and Australia.
This is a very different picture to the one given back in December 2011 by the National Dairy Authority (NDA), an attached agency of the DOT. It claimed then that 24% of the country’s milk requirement was locally produced. In other words, five years ago 456 million litres of milk came from the Philippine herds.
It also claimed that, given a budget of PHP14.4 billion (US$310.4 million) over the next five years, it could virtually ensure the country’s self-sufficiency in milk and an end to the colossal milk imports before former president, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, left office on 30 June 2016. Well, the NDA got the money, but the country didn’t get the milk.
In the context of that, Goat Gate may not look so serious. But the question is, how likely is it that the scam merchants restricted their corrupt practices to just the goat business? No doubt that’s a question that’s also going through Manny Piñol’s mind. USAID provides millions of dollars each year to help the Philippine agriculture.