By Madelaine B. Miraflor
It will be a long shot but the Department of Agriculture (DA) still pushed its luck and has requested a budget of about P240 billion for 2021, which is more than three times higher than what it received for this year.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a public webinar on Wednesday that the DA is proposing to get a P240-billion budget for next year, which is higher than the P64.7 billion it had for this year.
This, according to him, should help the sector address the problems in food logistics, which has been widely exposed during the COVID-19 lockdown, among others.
To recall, the COVID-19-triggered lockdown restricted delivery of food and agricultural goods, sending a large volume of agriculture products to waste. This resulted in low prices at farm-gate but high prices at retail.
Right now, Dar said that the agriculture sector is still at a “survival stage” and it will stay that way until the next six months.
“Under the survival stage is to really increase our food sufficiency level in all commodities. We need to develop the domestic industries and anything that we don’t produce here, we import it,” Dar said.
“We also need to maximize the use of science and technology in production areas and we should open up more agricultural lands,” he added.
To “survive”, the DA has already requested the Congress for a stimulus package of P66 billion to ease the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the agriculture sector.
This will be used to provide cash for work programs for agri-fishery workers, improve food logistics or food markets, and bankroll the DA’s “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat” (Alpas) Kontra sa COVID-19 Program.
The cash for work program targets to provide jobs to one million agri-fishery workers by granting each beneficiary aid amounting to P15,000.