From its original request of a P280-billion annual budget for next year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) may only end up with P129 billion for 2021, already including the portion of the stimulus package it has been requesting supposedly for this year.
Despite the lower budget, Agriculture Secretary William Dar still remained happy since this is a better budget than the initial Congress plan of P66 billion only for next year.
In a speech during the Binhi Awards ceremony, Dar said expects the DA’s potential budget for next year will already be finally approved.
He said that he is also “looking forward” to the balance of the P66-billion stimulus package that the DA has been requesting since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In total, the DA is poised to get P86.3 billion under its regular annual fund and another P42.5 billion from its proposed COVID-19 stimulus package, of which P24 billion will already be released to the agency for this year.
This would give the DA a total 2021 budget of P128.8 billion, which is higher compared to its actual 2020 budget of P64.7 billion. This is also slightly higher than the total amount of money that the DA has received for this year, including the P24-billion stimulus package, P8.5-billion fund for rice resiliency project (RRP), and the P3-billion Financial Subsidy to Rice Farmers (FSRF).
To recall, Agriculture Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan said that to fully transform the agriculture sector of the Philippines, the DA must be given a higher budget, ideally more than P100 billion.
He said DA’s budget must be proportional to the farm sector’s contribution to the country’s total gross domestic product (GDP).
This was after Dar pointed out that while the agriculture sector contributes about 10 percent to GDP, it only gets “a measly share of total national appropriations, at three to five percent, in the last 10 years”. Eli Weiss, Senior Agriculture Economist at the World Bank, also said the ideal percentage of growth for the agriculture sector should be about 2 percent or higher than the country’s population expansion rate, which according to Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) currently stands at 1.4 percent.
Meanwhile, in the next two months, the DA will start the distribution of P4-billion worth of cash assistance to more than 700,000 fishermen and farmers of different high-value crops.
The money that will be used for this, according to Dar, will come from the P24-billion stimulus package the agency is set to receive.