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DA seeks more funds for fuel subsidy scheme

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said it needs an additional P600 million to bankroll its expanded fuel voucher program that seeks to help more farmers cope with rising oil prices.

The DA said it has already requested the funds for its expanded Fuel Discount for Farmers and Fisherfolk Program or FDFFP from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

The agency recently issued Memorandum Circular (MC) 32 in preparation for the implementation of the expanded FDFFP that will now include other agricultural commodities, such as sugar, coconut, tobacco, abaca. (Related story: https://businessmirror.com.ph/2022/08/04/da-expands-coverage-of-p500-m-fuel-voucher-program-for-farmers/)

At present, the P500-million FDFFP only covers corn farmers and fisherfolk, who must use the subsidy to fuel their farm machinery and motorized bancas, according to the DA.

The DA said the FDFFP, which was rolled out in March, has created a total of 126,388 fuel discount accounts as of August 4. The remaining 32,342 eligible beneficiaries will have their accounts created before the end of the month, it added.

The fuel subsidy beneficiaries can immediately use their fuel discount accounts for the purchase of diesel or gasoline once they are loaded with the P3,000 subsidy.

“This is just part of the Department of Agriculture’s package of assistance to the agriculture sector, which continues to face challenges caused by high cost of farm inputs,” Undersecretary for Consumer and Political Affairs and DA Spokesperson Kristine Evangelista said in a statement.

“The program aims to cushion the impact of the current global economic challenges to the agriculture sector, and enable the food production sector to be more productive.”

Industry groups have earlier welcomed the expansion of the eligible beneficiaries under the DA’s FDFFP. They said expanding the coverage of the fuel discount program would help pull down the costs of domestic food production.

“That’s good news. All farmers of different commodities have equal right to any assistance from the government,” Danilo V. Fausto, Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. President, earlier told the BusinessMirror.

“All of them use fuel as part of their input and the fuel voucher program will help a lot in bringing down their cost, making farming a worthwhile venture.”

In January to June, the value of the country’s agricultural output contracted by 0.4 percent, mainly due to the anemic performance of the crops and fisheries subsectors.

Data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the value of farm output in the first half reached P853.087 billion at constant 2018 prices, lower than last year’s P856.66 billion.

The value of crops produced in the first half fell by 2.2 percent, while that of fisheries declined by 3.9 percent. Palay fell by 2.2 percent, while corn recorded a 0.6-percent contraction during the period.

The output of coconut, mango, sugarcane, pineapple, coffee and tobacco also recorded lower values.

In terms of volume, the country’s unmilled rice production contracted by 0.63 percent to 8.743 million metric tons (MMT) in January to June, from last year’s 8.799 MMT. Corn output, however, rose by 1.1 percent year-on-year to 3.926 MMT.

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