Agri chief warns it may start in few months but says government ready for it
Agriculture Secretary William Dar warned of a looming food crisis that could start in the second half of the year as input prices soar and there will be little to buy in the global market.
“Many experts are saying there is indeed a looming crisis. But we’re prepared to handle this,” Dar said at a briefing Wednesday. “We have a directional plan to handle these big challenges.”
The plan, he said, involves rebooting agriculture towards recovery and growth and developing a resilient industry under the Department of Agriculture’s 10-year strategic plan.
The program is part of the transitional plan for farm and fisheries sectors, including a proposed P250 billion budget that the DA aims to forward to the transitional camp of presumptive president Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
“We have the details of the P250 billion budget for next year. We are readying the documents, and anytime soon, in the next two weeks, we will seek an audience with the transition [team] of president-elect Bongbong Marcos,” Dar said as he admitted offering to extend his service under the new administration.
To alleviate the effects of fuel spikes, Dar said the DA has doubled the fuel subsidy allotted to farmers and fishermen to P1.1 billion.
The subsidy will benefit corn farmers as well as the fishing communities.
Another cash transfer scheme that the DA is enforcing comes from excess tariff from the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) that says that anything beyond the P10 billion for the rice competitiveness fund will be given as a subsidy under the Rice Farmers Assistance Program.
Beneficiaries from this program are farmers tilling two hectares or less.
The DA is also considering a return of the Masaganang Ani program, a planting program for crops self-sufficiency, particularly in vegetable production, introduced by the first Marcos Administration.
Dar urged the public to help increase food production in the country by trying urban farming methods.
“We must be prepared, each Filipino, if possible, let’s all plant, raise, fish, here in urban areas. If there’s a way to increase the production of our farmers and fishers, let’s do it. We also have to do it, we, as citizens,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.
He said the next administration should put a premium on cushioning the impact of food scarcity in the global market as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The United Nations estimates that 1.7-billion people, the majority from developing economies, are expected to suffer greatly from “food insecurity, energy prices, and debt burdens.”
“Given elevated levels of socioeconomic stress following the COVID-19 crisis and unfolding impacts of climate change, just one of these channels is enough to trigger collapse – debt distress, food shortages, or blackouts. Of these 1.7 billion people, 553 million are already poor, and 215 million are already undernourished,” the UN Task Team for the Global Crisis Response Group said in its April 2022 report.
The UN also noted that with the leading role of Russia and Ukraine in supplies of food, energy, and fertilizer, 107 economies will be affected, including 38 economies in Asia and the Pacific.