Sets DA reorg to face food crisis
President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he will head the Department of Agriculture when he assumes office on June 30 to allow him to reorganize the office to make it “ready” for the post-pandemic amid warnings of a food crisis in the second half of the year.
“I think that the problem is severe enough that I have decided to take on the portfolio of Secretary of Agriculture, at least for now and at least until we can reorganize the Department of Agriculture in the way that will make it ready for the next years to come,” Marcos said in a press briefing on Monday.
“We need to replace a lot—there are offices that are underused and there are those that we need to retool for the post-pandemic because what we are dealing with now is different,” he added.
Marcos said by taking on the Agriculture portfolio, he is “mak(ing) it clear to everyone what a high priority we put on the agri sector.”
“It is also a practical matter so that things move quickly because the events of the global economy are moving very quickly. We have to be able to be agile,” he said.
“We’re going back to basics, and we will rebuild the value chain of agriculture…We’ll try to increase production as we come into the harvest period after, during, and before the rainy season. Hopefully, we can counteract some of the increases in prices,” Marcos added.
Outgoing Agriculture Secretary William Dar in May warned of a looming food crisis, brought about by the effects of the pandemic on the economy, rising fuel prices, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization likewise said poor countries are expected to suffer the most from worldwide food crises exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.
In its latest Food Outlook, the UN agency said the global food import bill was on course to hit a new record of $1.8 trillion this year as the Ukraine conflict pushes up cereal and grain prices and with higher prices and transport costs accounting for the bulk of the expected increase.
Marcos said his economic team foresees an increase in food prices in the coming months because of external forces.
“We have been able in the Philippines, in the last few weeks, to adjust to the new situation in terms of the imports from Ukraine and from Russia. But these emergency measures we have taken will not be sufficient in the long run. And that’s why we have to plan in a more thorough fashion than just responding,” he said.
A long-term priority, Marcos said, is the restructuring of the department, as many agencies have changed their functions, like the National Food Authority.
The Agriculture department restructured most of its programs since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic to cater to the emergency needs of farmers, fisherfolk, and the consuming public.
These involved easy and affordable financing services, technical support, farm inputs, equipment, and machinery, among others, which were provided to farmers and fishers.
In addition, the DA likewise launched a food marketing program through the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita to help consumers have access to more affordable food.