THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it is eyeing a budget next year higher than P90 billion to address current problems of the sector and to put in place a “buffer fund” that would allow it to procure farm and fishery products during emergencies.
The DA said it has started its internal budget hearings to finalize its 2022 budget proposal for submission to and scrutiny by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
In a virtual press briefing on Thursday, the DA disclosed that it will “definitely” ask for a budget higher than its current P90-billion outlay in order to address the issues brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, and African Swine Fever (ASF), among others.
“We need to exert efforts to convince our congressmen and senators to increase [the budget] for these critical sectors: livestock, poultry, fisheries and high-value crops,” the DA added.
In a separate statement on Thursday, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar included in their 2022 budget proposal a “buffer fund to bankroll procurement of farm and fishery products during times of emergency.”
Implementing Agencies of Republic Act 7581 or the Price Act, such as the DA, are allowed to have a buffer fund in their annual appropriations to finance emergency measures such as procurement and importation of basic commodities in times of shortage of supply, among other related measures.
Under Section 9 of the Price Act, implementing agencies “may procure, purchase, import, or stockpile any basic necessity or prime commodity, devise ways and means of distributing them for sale at reasonable prices in areas where there is shortage of supply or a need to effect changes in its prevailing price.”
As he opened a five-day physical and virtual internal budget hearing for 2022, Dar exhorted his staff, “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.”
He reiterated that the DA is eyeing to post 2.5-percent growth for the agriculture and fisheries sector this year.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the Philippine Chamber on Agriculture and Food Inc. (Pcafi) said they have been “petitioning before Congress long-term development plans for the hog, poultry and livestock sectors, not just short-term solutions to crises like ASF.”
“It is unfair that poultry and livestock gets only an average of 3 percent from the budget of DA, while it contributes an estimated 35 percent in total agricultural production revenue. On the other hand, palay gets the whopping 40 percent of budget despite contributing only 22 percent in production revenue,” Pcafi said.
“Moreover, livestock and poultry actually accounts for a significant 2.5 percent of the Philippines’s total gross domestic product revenue generation. That makes it a critical mover in national development,” Pcafi added.
The group noted that the agriculture sector gets barely 2 percent of the total national budget, while contributing 9 percent to 10 percent of the GDP.
“With a P4.5-trillion 2021 budget, DA should get at least P405 billion in the national budget; livestock and poultry with at least P112.5 billion,” it said.