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‘Appropriate budget will unleash full potential of agriculture sector’

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar is optimistic that his agency would receive a substantial increase in its budget for 2022, which will allow the Department of Agriculture (DA) to hit its production targets.

Based on the National Expenditure Program, Dar said the DA’s budget for 2022—excluding the allocation for government owned and controlled corporations under the agency—is estimated at P72 billion, or just P1 billion higher than its 2021 budget.

“We will continue to drum up support from various stakeholders so that during discussions in Congress our budget could still be increased in a big way,” he said during a virtual forum organized by the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines and Aboitiz on Wednesday.

“We have seen why we need more budget. In rice alone, we brought in the budgetary support and we have seen the outcome. [Production] really increases. Higher investment means higher outcome.”

Last month, Dar revealed that the DA proposed a budget of P250 billion for 2022, which is “three times” higher than this year’s budget of P85 billion, to sustain its efforts to ensure the country’s food security.

The DA made the pitch despite concerns over a limited budget space for departments in light of the implementation of the Mandanas-Garcia ruling next year, which will increase funding for local government units (LGUs) by at least P234 billion.

Dar said the potential of the agriculture sector “could be further unleashed” if it will get “appropriate” budgetary support, as well as much-needed private sector investments and financing from LGUs.

“We pray that the country’s agriculture sector could be afforded that long-delayed financial support so the Philippines could keep pace at least with our counterparts in the Asean region.”

In the same forum, Dar maintained that the agriculture sector can still grow by 2 percent this year despite the 2.5-percent contraction in the value of agricultural output for the first half.

Citing Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, Dar noted that the agriculture, forestry and fishing contracted by only 0.1 percent.

“We will exert more effort and hard work to intensify our services and agriculture interventions to our farmers and fisherfolk.”

The agriculture chief is also optimistic that the crops subsector would serve as the driver for overall farm growth in the second semester following a bountiful harvest in the first semester.

The BusinessMirror earlier reported that the country’s farm output in the first half contracted by 2.5 percent as the gap in the livestock and poultry production widened on an annual basis. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/08/09/farm-output-shrinks-2-5-on-livestock-poultry-woes/)

The Philippines is also on track to achieve a historic 20.4 million metric ton palay harvest this year following a record palay output of 8.8 million metric tons in the first half. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2021/08/09/barring-adverse-weather-condition-in-h2-phl-on-track-to-historic-palay-yield-in-2021/).

Image courtesy of BusinessMirror file photo
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