DA pursues nearly 3% agri growth amid pandemic, ASF prevalence

Published March 5, 2021, 5:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

Despite the persistence of COVID-19 and African Swine Fever (ASF), the Department of Agriculture (DA) is still bent on pursuing a nearly 3 percent growth target for the Philippines’ agricultural production for this year.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the DA will continue to pursue efforts to achieve a 2.5-percent growth for the agriculture and fishery sector this year.

The agency, he said, even started laying the groundwork for 2022 already.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar (MANILA BULLETIN)

This is despite the persistence of COVID-19, which is restricting movements in the food supply chain, and ASF, which has already resulted in billions of losses in the livestock industry. 

“Let us regroup, rethink, and put in place key strategies with the objective of attaining positive growth for the sector starting this year and onto 2022, recovering from a flat growth last year,” Dar told DA officials and employees during a five-day physical and virtual internal budget hearing for 2022.

To recall, the Philippines’ agricultural output fell by 1.2 percent in 2020, while it declined by 3.8 percent in the fourth quarter of last year alone, based on Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data.

Dar said that moving forward, DA’s interventions will remain geared toward achieving the department’s twin goals of “Masaganang Ani at Mataas na Kita [growth in both yield and profit]”.  

Such a goal should benefit more than 10 million small farmers, fisherfolk, and their families, he said.

He also said that DA must continue efforts to attain food security for major commodities like rice, pork, chicken, fish, fruits, and vegetables to stabilize supply and prices.

These include consolidating and mobilizing farm and fishery products from surplus provinces to major consumption areas like Metro Manila.

“In particular, we will exert special efforts to get significant budgetary support for livestock and poultry, fishery, and high-value crops,” said the DA chief.

In addition, he said they will include in the 2022 DA budget proposal a “buffer fund” to bankroll procurement of farm and fishery products during times of emergency.

The DA will also strengthen coordination with local government units (LGUs) for them to activate their local price coordinating council (LPCC) to regularly monitor supply and prices of basic food products in public markets, and reprimand erring retailers and profiteers.

At the same time, the DA will also enhance partnership with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) by providing technical assistance and facilities to support its agriculture and fishery development efforts, being a potential major food basket.

Meanwhile, much-needed logistics and transport concerns will be addressed with the enhanced implementation of Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita marketing program, notably engagement of farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) as well as traders’ groups, Dar said.

For this year, the DA will receive a higher budget of P71.0 billion, compared to the nearly P60 billion it received in 2020 under the general appropriations act. 

While this is way smaller than the DA’s original budget request of P280 billion for this year, the DA may still receive an additional P42 billion under the P66-billion COVID-19 stimulus package it requested last year.

Of this stimulus package, the national government already granted DA the P24 billion last year.