The Department of Agriculture said it ramped up efforts to secure adequate food supply as the country continues to battle the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.
Agriculture Sec. William Dar said the department’s thrust is currently on increasing food sufficiency, having additional budget support, and using modern technology in the agriculture sector.
“We have refocused these ongoing banner programs towards ensuring a higher level of food sufficiency and this is one of our major priority areas in pushing and rebooting Philippine agriculture in 2021,” Dar said.
In terms of rice production, Dar said the country’s sufficiency level is at 86 percent.
With the additional budget that the department was able to have this year, they are gearing to increase the rice sufficiency level to 93 percent.
"If this strategy is continuous, and with the additional budget and the use of modern technology, food sufficiency level will increase," he said.
The same must also happen to other basic agricultural commodities being pushed by the department.
The DA chief said he would make sure that food markets and food logistics are supported so that in cases of emergency situations, farmers and cooperatives can have big food markets where they can sell their farm produce.
It is important, he said, that big trading centers with warehouses and cold storages are directly connected to the farmers in the provinces.
He said the DA has a strategy called "agri-industrial business corridors" set to start in New Clark City.
He added that Clark would be the center of value-adding, processing, or manufacturing, in which the raw products to be used would come from the different provinces in Central and Northern Luzon, including the Cordillera region.
DA is also planning to build another one in Taguig City, to be connected to the Laguna de Bay for the supply of fisheries.
"Laguna de Bay has big potential in terms of supply of fisheries like tilapia and milkfish. And if there is a fish port in Taguig, municipalities around Laguna de Bay will have a market directly to Taguig area and Metro Manila)," he said.
Dar, meanwhile, clarified his position on rice importation.
He said if the country is at 86 percent in rice sufficiency, then the country should have an option on where to get the remaining 14 percent.
“It’s not that I want importation, but it’s an act of last resort. Increasing the budget of the agriculture sector will help increase farm production, thus increasing income, so that there will be little need, if not totally get rid of importation),” he said.
He said DA has two policy on this: first is to ensure strong support for the domestic production of all the basic commodities that every Filipino needs; and second, only when the country does not have this commodity in a commercial scale, the policy of last resort is to import from other countries.
Dar said he believes that the agriculture sector can help a lot in the recovery of our economy because it is a given fact that in any war, like this fight against Covid-19, Filipinos need food to survive.
That is why government support, as well as from the private sector, is very vital in having enough food for every Filipino.
He said that included in the Bayanihan 2 is a proposal for an additional budget to be used for urban, backyard, and high-value agriculture, as well as livestock raising and the fisheries sector.