The Department of Agriculture (DA) has pushed for additional P12-billion budget next year as the agency raised alarm over the looming global food crisis.
In a letter to Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the agriculture sector now needs a “lifeline” amid surmounting food and agriculture global challenges.
Dar said the DA could use an additional budget of P12 billion on top of its recommended P95 billion budget for 2022. The DA originally requested a budget of P231 billion for next year.
“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 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,” Dar said.
“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.
He further said that “there is an urgency for the government to support our farmers in dealing with these global and local challenges”.
The additional budget, Dar said, will be allocated to fertilizer subsidy (P8.9 billion), corn program (P2 billion); and urban agriculture (P1.1 billion).
Dar said 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. 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,” Dar said.
“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,” he further said.
A budget of P95 billion is only slightly higher than the P71 billion the DA received for this year.
Dar earlier said such a budget level will not be enough to boost the country’s agricultural production, which has been on a decline for the past four quarters.
In an earlier statement, the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) blamed the DA why the farm sector will receive a low budget next year.
At the time, PCAFI requested Dar to explain the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the agency’s financial and operational highlights last year. This, since the group believes that the negative COA findings will compromise the efforts of both the private sector and the government to urge Congress to give the DA a higher budget for 2022.
In a formal letter to Dar in September, PCAFI asked Dar to explain the findings of COA showing the misuse of an estimated P46.681 billion of public funds that farmers were expecting to receive amid the harsh impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to them.
Several items have been cited by COA in the audit, including the P4.55 billion “unobligated amount” due to delays in the procurement process and discontinuance of project implementation. The other two items are the P9.89 billion, which is 16.6 percent of DA’s total 2020 budget, being returned due to delay in delivery of goods, delayed submission of disbursement vouchers for payment, and the P17.542 billion “non-liquidated” fund.