(Yearender)DA’s programs to boost agriculture, make food affordable

The Duterte administration is working aggressively to boost the agriculture and fisheries sector, crucial to make food available and affordable in the country.

The agriculture sector posted negative growths in the first and second quarters at 4.53 percent and 2.34 percent, respectively, as the prolonged drought brought about by the El Nino reduced crop output.

The sector surged 2.9 percent in July to September quarter due to normalization of weather conditions, breaking five consecutive quarters of decline.

It is expected to deliver an unprecedented growth of 7 percent to 8 percent in the fourth quarter on another bumper harvest, bringing the 2016 growth at 1.03 percent.

"Among the immediate actions that we did was to respond to calamities, specific problems like lack of machineries, (and) the release of an estimated Php2 billion worth of farm equipment and machineries which were kept in storage centers in the different parts of the region," said Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Manny PiAol.

PiAol also cited the activation of inoperational rice processing centers and the utilization of different Agri Pinoy Trading Centers in many parts of the country. The rice processing centers will reduce the losses after every harvest.

"At the same time, we also laid the foundation for a strong and sustainable agriculture," he said.

The DA this month launched a color-coded national agricultural map which analyzes agricultural efficiency and land use, an initiative aimed to fulfill President Rodrigo Duterte's promise of food sufficiency by the end of his term.

"We were able to complete in five months the national color coded agriculture map which will serve as the basis for future agricultural programs and planning," he added.

PiAol has been also pushing other major interventions to boost the agriculture sector, including the national food consumption quantification survey, irrigation projects, corporate rice farming, and mechanization and post-harvest facilities.

"Mechanization and post-harvest facilities (is) one area where the DA will focus its resources on in the coming years of the Duterte administration," he said.

Corporate rice farming, meanwhile, will directly link farmer producers with corporate buyers, including the Department of Social Welfare and Development's (DWSD) Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) rice ration program to free it from the manipulation of traders and middlemen.

The program will also give farmers access to quality rice seeds and fertilizers.

"We are looking at other commodities which would fill in whatever shortage or gap we have in the staple food production," he said.

PiAol ordered concerned agencies to conduct a study on how to come up with a formulation for a combination of rice and white corn "so that we will be able to come up with a perfect mix that would again beef up our food supply."

Further, the DA is currently undertaking the food consumption quantification survey which gives accurate statistics on food supply and consumption.

PiAol also ordered the start of a nationwide validation of all agricultural data and statistics that were proven to be inaccurate and outdated.

"It was because of this that I actually issued an order for a nationwide validation of all agricultural data starting from the ground because I believe that we will not be able to do some planning if the data that we use and the statistics that we rely on are not accurate," he stressed.

For the first time in the history of rice farming in the country, irrigation water will be provided free by the National Irrigation Administration starting next year.

"These are all part of our efforts to ensure that in the years to come, there will be enough food for the Filipino people. I believe that all of these things that we have started would contribute to the realization of the commitment of the President for an affordable food," the agriculture chief added.

Source: Philippines News Agency