The Department of Agriculture (DA) is seeking an additional P12 billion on top of its recommended P95-billion budget for 2022 to address food and agriculture challenges amid the pandemic.
"We are entering a 'New World', the global scale of the 'new normal' as an offshoot of the Covid-19 pandemic, wherein every country in the world is coping with huge challenges. These include the lingering and mutating Covid-19 pandemic, increasing prices of petrol, fertilizers and feeds, climate change, population dynamics, urbanization and aging farmers, and preventing entry of transboundary animal and plant diseases," Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement on Thursday.
The bigger budget will allow the government to deal with global problems that continue to impact food production, distribution, and consumption next year and beyond, Dar said.
"Hence, in the case of the Philippines and we at the Department of Agriculture, there is a felt need for bigger budgetary support," he said.
In a letter to Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto 3rd and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, Dar said the country needs a "lifeline" to sustain productivity and meet food security goals.
"We believe that there is an urgency for the government to support our farmers in dealing with these global and local challenges," he said.
Of the proposed P12 billion, P8.9 billion will be allocated for fertilizer subsidy, P2 billion for augmenting the corn program and P1.1 billion for urban agriculture.
"The increase in prices of inorganic fertilizers due to the declining global supply has been alarming. Big countries and producers have stocked up most of the fertilizer supply to ensure their local requirements for crop production and food security," Dar said.
He said the threats to the global supply chain, particularly rising oil prices, increasing prices of raw materials for feeds, and the higher cost of transport due to the backlog in logistics transport service are adding to the lingering effect of the pandemic.
The department "will strongly encourage local government units and the private sector to invest in agriculture and fishery infrastructure and livelihood projects, particularly in palay procurement, provision of drying, storage and rice milling facilities, farmers' trading and consolidation centers, cold storage facilities and logistics like reefer and food delivery vans," Dar assured.
He also encouraged more foreign direct investments, directing DA's marketing and international affairs teams to package big-ticket investment projects.
The department will continue initiatives to mitigate the impact of climate change through its Climate Resilient Agriculture Office. To do this, the DA will set up more "AMIA" (adaptation and mitigation initiatives in agriculture) villages in vulnerable regions.
The department has set up 116 AMIA villages nationwide.
It is also looking into strengthening research and development, farm-to-market roads, postharvest facilities (including cold-chain), small irrigation system (rainwater catchment basin), access to credit for small farmers, and ports, markets.
Dar said there is a need to channel more resources to crops where the country has comparative advantage to boost exports, and encourage farmers, fishers and entrepreneurs to be more cost-efficient and quality-conscious.
The department will also continue to promote farm consolidation and clustering in partnership with farmers' cooperatives and associations, local government units, and the private sector.