DA bats for P24-B add’l fund

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is asking for an additional P24-billion funding for fertilizer subsidy, among others, under part two of its flagship “Plant, Plant, Plant Program” on top of the approved P85.5 billion earlier.

DA Secretary William D. Dar said on Thursday, March 3, that his original proposal is only about P8 billion extra budget but when presented to President Duterte this week, Dar said the chief executive wanted a higher budget especially for fertilizer subsidy.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar (Courtesy of DA)

“So, we are increasing the budgetary support request and I am now finalizing today (March 3) the request to be submitted to Malacanang,” said Dar in a panel discussion during a forum on the state of the country’s agriculture sector hosted by the American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (AMCHAM) on Thursday.

Of the P24 billion, Dar said P20 billion which is “a very substantial amount” will fund fertilizer subsidy while the DA’s program for aquaculture and mariculture will each get P1 billion support. Dar did not disclose how much of the remaining P2 billion will go to urban agriculture projects which is also part of the program that will receive an extra budget.

Duterte’s recent approval of various measures proposed by the DA is intended to cushion the impact of global economic challenges and Russia-Ukraine crisis on the country’s food security.

During the forum, Dar said that to partly resolve the problem of steep fertilizer costs, the government will arrange for more bilateral deals with other countries that are exporting fertilizers.

“We will do a number of measures to deal with those countries manufacturing fertilizers, if they can give us lesser prices per tonnage. It’s still to be imported by the private sector but bilateral discussions are ongoing,” said Dar.

During the forum, where US Agriculture Counselor Morgan Haas of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was part of the panel, Dar said the US as the world’s second largest supplier of the Urea fertilizer which is used for animal feeds, could deliver more tonnage to the Philippines.

The Philippines has a requirement for almost one million metric tons of Urea in an annual basis, said Dar. The biggest Urea exporter is Russia, which is in a geopolitical war with Ukraine.

“If we can be given just a bit of your stockpile — we will pay — but just the same we need almost a million metric tons of Urea every year and we source it from Malaysia, Indonesia, China and other sources,” Dar told Haas.

Haas, for his part, said the USDA is already doing matchmaking schemes since last week to find exporters of fertilizers such as those based in the state of California. “This is the beauty of markets, when prices go up, markets respond,” he said. Haas also assured Dar that US agencies have already warned fertilizer producers in the US not to engage in profiteering.

Dar said the government is adopting several measures to address global and local supply chain disruptions, as well as the high logistics and freight costs, and the high cost of agricultural inputs as a result of rising petroleum prices.

“Presently, what has been approved by Congress and the Senate and approved by the President, is P85.5 billion but the other day, we presented supposedly the budgetary requirement to launch part two of the ‘Plant, Plant, Plant Program” to consider these global challenges,” the DA chief said.

Dar said other parts of the “Plant Plant Plant Program” with additional funding include urban agriculture program. “We need to have more production areas in the fringes of Metro Manila and other metro areas in the country (to) reduce logistics costs,” he said.

Another area that will require additional support is the local feeds production. “(We will be) tapping on our local materials. Some parts of that (budget) will be for the research for this feed formulation and production,” said Dar.

Dar said Duterte has already directed Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Senator Bong Go and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to find the source of the P24 billion additional DA support.

“That’s (for the) reinvigoration of the whole – and when we say ‘Plant Plant Plant’ this is not just for crops, but for the other commodity industries in agriculture,” he added.

To boost the country’s food production and to assure the income sources of farmers, fishers, and ruralfolk, Malacanang approved this week the following: more budget to fund DA’s “Plant, Plant, Plant Program”; realignment of the 2022 DA budget; provision of concessional loans by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) and Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to provincial LGUs for palay procurement and rice buffer stocking; and transfer of oversight of the National Irrigation Administration or NIA back to the DA.

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Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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