CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — Department of Agriculture (DA) continues to assist farmers and fisherfolks in Central Luzon through various interventions that will empower them.
This is anchored on President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s marching order to prioritize the sector as this is one of the main drivers of the country’s push for growth and development.
During the Dagyaw 2022: Bayanihan sa New Normal na Lipunan hybrid forum, DA Regional Technical Director for Research, Regulatory and Integrated Laboratories Arthur Dayrit said the government continues to provide support to ensure enough food every day despite the many problems that the agriculture sector is experiencing.
“This is in line with our vision of a modernized and globally competitive agriculture for a food secure, resilient, and sustainable region,” he emphasized.
Dayrit cited that among the major challenges in the sector is the rising cost of fuel, which also affects the price of farm inputs like fertilizers.
“It’s not just the transportation industry that uses a lot of fuel. Even the agri-fishery sector uses fuel for land preparation, for sailing, and other farm activities. It is a major problem for our ordinary farmers to keep up with the increasing fuel cost,” he said.
Aging farmers is also a concern that needs to be addressed.
The effects of climate change, as well as the frequency of typhoons and other natural calamities which posed great damage to agriculture; the re-occurrence of diseases among animals; and the unavailability of sentinel animals, are also among the challenges that the agriculture sector faces.
Given these issues, DA said it is focused on increasing buffer stocks of prime commodity seedlings in order to attain food systems resiliency.
“The Philippines is frequented by more or less 20 typhoons a year, so we need to mitigate or adapt to the situation. Since we are frequented by calamities like typhoons, we are providing buffer stocking that in case there are strong typhoons, we have sources of seedlings that we can distribute to the affected farmers so that they can quickly recover,” Dayrit said.
He also said that the agency is now expanding agricultural infrastructure including the construction of farm-to-market roads that will give farmers and fishers in far-flung areas access to market to enable them to reduce transportation cost and increase income.
This also includes irrigating all areas that can be, like the rain-fed ecosystems, which can accelerate food security; and the putting up of post-harvest facilities to modernize the agriculture sector.
Aside from this, Dayrit added that they are also boosting agricultural output through higher allocation for prime commodities, especially rice.
DA reported that in Central Luzon, budget for the agriculture sector will have a 39.2 percent increase in 2023 or P163.75 billion from the P112 billion allocation this year.
From P2.807 billion allocation for palay in 2022, the budget increased to P7.680 billion for next year.
“We also continue to provide financial assistance to our agriculture workers to increase their productivity. For the Fertilizer Discount Voucher, a total of 235,843 farmers have claimed P88.89 million for 309,744 hectares of land. For the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund – Rice Farmers Financial Assistance program, 82,119 farmers already benefited worth P410.60 million,” he disclosed.
Other aid include distribution of 3,991 bags of hybrid corn seeds worth P20.32 million; 1,880 fuel discount vouchers worth P5.92 million; and distribution of 7,391 heads of piglets to 5,535 farmers; as well as provision of financing aid.
DA is also advocating Gulayan sa Paaralan and Gulayan sa Barangay programs to further advocate the youth to engage in agriculture.
“We also have programs on food safety because while we want to increase our productivity, we want to make sure that the food we produce are safe to consume. We also partner with Department of Agrarian Reform to expedite land distribution. Once land is distributed to the farmers, we are mandated to provide assistance to the beneficiaries like trainings on how to cultivate their land and the provision of farm inputs,” he furthered.
Central Luzon is known as the Rice Granary of the Philippines with 19% of the total palay production nationwide.
The region is also the top producer of onion, chicken meat, duck meat and eggs, tilapia, and shrimp.
Dagyaw 2022 was organized by Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Budget and Management, and Philippine Information Agency.