Agriculture Dept. wants bigger budget for 2021

Robie de Guzman   •   July 10, 2020   •   470

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture is proposing a P284.4 billion budget for 2021, more than thrice its current budget of P79.9 billion, to fund its programs.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar made the proposal during a teleconference with the House of Representatives’ Committee on Agriculture and Food on Wednesday.

Dar said the proposed budget would be used to bankroll its existing and new projects – P61.8 billion and P222 billion, respectively – for the year 2021.

“The agri-fishery sector, for the longest time, has been a ‘sleeping giant’ of the national economy, whose vast potentials remain largely untapped to achieve higher and sustainable growth,” Dar said.

“While the agriculture sector contributes about 10 percent (%) to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), it gets a measly share of total national appropriations, at three to five percent in the last 10 years,” he added.

The Agriculture chief said the sector will continue to perform poorly if it is not given the proper financial support.

“If we were to ensure that agriculture contributes its full potentials in the country’s economic recovery in the ‘new normal,’ we need to augment the DA budget,” Dar said.

If approved, the DA said the budget will be used to further increase the production of major commodities for next year. For the rice sector, the department proposes a budget allocation of P56 billion; P22.5 billion for fisheries; P13.75 billion for high-value crops; P11.25 billion for livestock; and P6.6 billion for corn.

The department also plans to spend P130 billion to bankroll locally-funded projects, construction of farm-to-market roads, implementation of national soil health, and young farmers’ programs; P7.15 billion as counterpart for foreign-assisted projects such as the Philippine Rural Development Project; P3 billion on market development services; and P960.4 million on organic agriculture.

“In all, the budget is intended to sustain, reboot, and grow the Philippine agriculture and fisheries sector, amid the challenges brought by the pandemic and into the ‘new normal’,” Dar said.

Quezon Province First District Representative Wilfrido Mark Enverga, who headed the committee, said at the hearing that Dar’s request is just a ‘wish list’ at the moment given the magnitude of the budget proposal.

PH won’t lift import ban on Brazilian poultry meat – DA

Robie de Guzman   •   October 26, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture (DA) on Monday maintained it will not lift the import ban it imposed on poultry meat coming from Brazil despite its government’s warning to file legal cases against the Philippines before the World Trade Organization (WTO).

“We have not yet lifted the ban on poultry, especially whole chicken, as the Brazilian government has yet to furnish the Philippines a report on the rates of SARS-COV-2 infection in their respective Foreign Meat Establishments (FME), where our imports are sourced,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement.

Dar’s statement is in response to the letter sent by the Brazilian government through the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In the letter, the Brazilian government said it is “determined to resort to the appropriate multi-lateral fora, including the filing of ‘Specific Trade Concerns’ to the detriment of the Philippines at the WTO, anchored by the guidelines recommended by that organization” due to the import ban.

Dar welcomed the Brazilian government’s complaint, saying “all member-countries have an equal right to challenge each other whenever there are trade complaints lodged before the WTO.”

“Although we have maintained an open communication line with our Brazilian counterparts, the Department of Agriculture welcomes the initiative of Brazil to elevate the matter to the WTO,” he added.

It was in August when the DA implemented the import ban on poultry meat from the South American country based on reports of widespread COVID-19 infection among meat workers and the laboratory detection in China of SARS-COV-2 in imported chicken wings from Brazil.

The DA maintained that the report forms part of the protocols of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and the requirements of the DA for a more in-depth risk analysis of the situation.

“It is within the scope of the importing country to pre-emptively ban FMEs with apparent biosafety lapses until such time that the Philippines is satisfied with the evidence of compliance and/or commitment by the FME concerned,” said DA-Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Director Ronnie Domingo.

In fact, he said, that when they received partial documents from Brazil, the Philippines “responded promptly by recently allowing the entry of mechanically-deboned meat or MDM from Brazil.”

On settling trade complaints and disputes, Dar said “the Philippines has always been facilitative of trade and open to discussion on trade issues which may not be acceptable to a trading partner.”

The WTO provides an avenue that allows member governments to negotiate and resolve trade issues with other members.

DA sees manipulation in pork supply leading to surge in prices

Marje Pelayo   •   October 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The recent spike in prices of pork meat in local markets has led the Department of Agriculture (DA) to believe that the supply of pork in the country is being manipulated.

In major public markets in Metro Manila such as Guadalupe, Commonwealth, Las Piñas and Pasig City, the price of pork is almost the same as the price of beef.

The price of beef in said market ranges from P300 to P350 per kilogram while the price of pork ranges from P290 to P360 per kilogram.

But in the markets of Pasay, Marikina, Mega Q-mart and Muñoz in Quezon City, the price of pork is even higher than beef

Agriculture Secretary William Dar noted that the current supply of frozen pork in Metro Manila is 55 percent higher compared with the same period last year.

“Meron tayong tinitingnan na mina manipulate nila ang paglabas ng frozen pork, kasi meron naman, nandyan na sa mga cold storages natin (We are looking at the possibility of manipulation in the release of frozen pork, because there is supply just sitting in cold storages),” the official said.

Dar said the DA cannot specify yet who among the suppliers are doing the manipulation but they have set a meeting with them to discuss the matter.

“Iyong may mga cold storages imi-meeting namin agad at makikiusap tayo na ilabas nila, ibenta nila yung nasa cold storage nila (We are set to meet with the owners of cold storages and we will ask them to release and to sell the supplies in their cold storages),” Dar said.

Dar also noted that the African Swine Fever (ASF) has affected the country’s pork supply. The agency is currently helping hog raisers from Visayas and Mindanao in bringing their supply to Metro Manila.

At present, thousands of pigs in a total of 25 provinces in the country have alrady been affected by ASF.

To date, there is still no effective cure or vaccine for ASF, thus the DA is asking for the cooperation of the public to help stop the spread of the deadly swine disease.

Dar said the country has enough supply of chicken which can be an alternative to pork.

“Iyong kakulangan ng pork pwede namang punuan galing sa chicken (Chicken meat can fill the pork supply gap),” Secretary Dar said. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

Farmers, fishers to receive cash, food aid from excess rice tariffs under Bayanihan 2

Marje Pelayo   •   October 21, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — In succeeding months, small rice farmers will receive cash assistance sourced from “excess rice tariff” under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act or Bayanihan 2, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA).

Likewise, fisherfolk and corn, coconut and sugar farmers as well as indigenous peoples (IPs) will receive cash and food assistance. 

Currently, the DA is finalizing the mechanics of the two forms of assistance to millions of small farmers and fisherfolk.

This is in accordance with a resolution approved and adopted by the Senate committee on agriculture and food during the virtual deliberations of the proposed 2021 budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA), on October 16, 2020.

Agriculture secretary William Dar said the cash assistance will benefit farmers adversely impacted by the  depressed prices of palay this season.

The Senate Joint Resolution No. 12 authorizes the use of the tariffs on imported rice in excess of P10 billion collected by the Bureau of Customs for 2020 under the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

Secretary Dar said that the initial estimate of the excess rice tariffs in 2019 and this year may amount to P5B.

The said amount as stated in the Joint Senate resolution will be used as cash assistance worth P5,000 to benefit small rice farmers, tilling one hectare or less.

To qualify, farmer-beneficiaries should be listed in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).

Secretary Dar added that this time, other non-rice farmers will also receive P5,000-worth of cash and food assistance under the DA’s P4.5-billion budget allocation, also under Bayanihan 2.

The DA chief said of the P5,000-assistance, P3,000 will be in cash, while the P2,000 will be in kind, at P1,000 for rice and the other P1,000 for chicken and eggs.

Based on the DA’s initial program mechanics, the rice, chicken and eggs will be withdrawn by the beneficiaries using an e-voucher system. 

Qualified recipients will be issued an ID cum voucher.

“Through this mechanism, we are lifting once again our local rice industry that has been affected by the decline in palay prices, and poultry raisers who were affected by a glut due to shut down of businesses due to the pandemic,” secretary Dar said.

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