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DA asks P12-B more to address food global challenges

MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is seeking additional PHP12 billion, on top of the recommended PHP95-billion budget for 2022, to address surmounting food and agriculture global challenges onto the “new world”.

“We are entering a ‘New World’ — the global scale of the ‘new normal’ as an offshoot of the Covid-19 pandemic — wherein every country in the world is coping with huge challenges. These include the lingering and mutating Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic, increasing prices of petrol, fertilizers and feeds, climate change, population dynamics, urbanization and aging farmers, and preventing entry of transboundary animal and plant diseases,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement on Thursday.

“These global challenges will continue to impact adversely on food production, distribution, and consumption next year and beyond. Hence, in the case of the Philippines and we at the Department of Agriculture, there is a felt need for bigger budgetary support,” he added.

In a letter to Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Dar said the country is in need of a “lifeline” to sustain its productivity and meet its food security needs.

“We believe that there is an urgency for the government to support our farmers in dealing with these global and local challenges,” he said.

Part of the DA’s proposed PHP12-billion augmentation includes PHP8.9 billion for fertilizer subsidy, PHP2 billion additional budget for corn program, and PHP1.1 billion for urban agriculture.

“The increase in prices of inorganic fertilizers due to the declining global supply has been alarming. Big countries and producers have stocked up most of the fertilizer supply to ensure their local requirements for crop production and food security,” Dar said.

“Other threats such as the rising oil prices, increasing prices of raw materials for feeds, and increasing cost of transport due to backlog in logistics transport service are adding to the lingering effect of the pandemic, which is still affecting the global supply chain,” he added.

“Now, more than ever, the ‘OneDA family’ will strongly encourage local government units and the private sector to invest in agriculture and fishery infrastructure and livelihood projects, particularly in palay procurement, provision of drying, storage and rice milling facilities, farmers’ trading and consolidation centers, cold storage facilities and logistics like reefer and food delivery vans,” Dar said.

He said the DA will also encourage more foreign direct investments, tasking its marketing and international affairs teams to package big ticket investment projects, under the leadership of DA undersecretary for fisheries and for agri-industrialization Cheryl Marie Natividad Caballero.

Meanwhile, Dar said the DA will continue initiatives to mitigate the impact of climate change through its Climate Resilient Agriculture Office, particularly in the establishment of more “AMIA” villages in vulnerable regions.

AMIA stands for adaptation and mitigation initiative in agriculture. To date, the DA has set up 116 AMIA villages nationwide.

The DA is also looking into strengthening research and development, farm-to-market roads, postharvest facilities (including cold-chain), small irrigation system (rainwater catchment basin), access to credit for small farmers, and ports, markets.

Dar said there is a need to devote more resources to crops where the country has comparative advantage, resulting to greater exports, and encourage Filipino farmers, fishers and entrepreneurs to be more cost-efficient and world class quality-conscious.

He said the ‘OneDA family’ will also continue to focus on promoting farm consolidation and clustering in partnership with farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs), LGUs, and the private sector, including foreign investors.

Finally, as the local government units (LGUs) will receive more budget starting January 2022 in compliance with the “Mandanas-Garcia ruling of the Supreme Court,” Dar said the DA will counterpart with LGUs in building agri-fishery infrastructure, and pursuing production, processing and marketing projects, including the implementation of the Province-led Agriculture and Fisheries Extension Systems (PAFES).

“Rest assured that we at the ‘OneDA family’ will continue to prioritize local production through the use modern science and technology to increase the productivity and incomes of our farmers, fisherfolk and agripreneurs, young and old,” he said. (PR)

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