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Wednesday, 9 August 2023

Agriculture's budget for 2024 to boost food, water security

The Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing (AFF) sector, having witnessed a growth of 2.2 percent in 2023, accounted for 9.1 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the first quarter of this year. Recognizing its significant contribution, the government is resolved to increase the AFF's budget allocation for 2024 and thereby sustain its growth trajectory.

The proposed allocations for the Department of Agriculture (DA) and its various sub-programs for the fiscal year 2024 amount to P197.84 billion. This represents a 6 percent increase from the previous year's budget allocation of P186.54 billion, as detailed in President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s 2024 budget message.

“To continue the upward trajectory of agricultural output and meet our Philippine Development Plan (PDP) goal of increasing the Philippines’ food security index, we will increase funding for the national programs of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on rice, corn, livestock, and high-value crops, among others,” said the President.

Department of Budget and Management Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman highlighted that among the priority areas for the 2024 expenditure as outlined in the PDP are centered on food and water security.

“In our quest for food security and proper nutrition for Filipino families, the FY 2024 National Expenditure Program (NEP) will continue to support programs that boost the local production of major agricultural commodities including rice, corn, and other high-value crops,” the secretary said.

Significantly, the budget secretary added that the NEP will focus on enhancing productivity and sustainability, ensuring soil resource management, providing agricultural support services, constructing farm-to-market roads, and mitigating El Niño risks through the buffer stocking program.

Food Security

The National Rice Program is slated to receive P30.9 billion to bolster rice production, while P10 billion is designated for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF). The RCEF aims to provide assistance to farmers through efforts such as rice seed development, loan provision, and the procurement of agricultural equipment.

Plans to strengthen food security also encompass the National Corn Program, National Livestock Program, and National High-Value Crops Development Program with proposed budgets of P5.3 billion, P4.3 billion, and P1.9 billion respectively.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration is slated to receive P1 billion for its Sugarcane Industry Development Program, with the purpose of enhancing farmers' skills and productivity levels.

On a similar note, the National Fisheries Program is slated to receive P6.9 billion, aiming to elevate the standard of agri-fishery practices, product quality, as well as farmers and fisherfolk's income. Moreover, an additional P211 million will be allocated to the Boosting Aquaculture Production Program to address a 10-percent target increase in local fish production and fill the supply deficit.
 
Natural Resources
 
The introduction of the National Soil Health Program and the proposed funds of P916 million, along with the Department of Science and Technology's National Agriculture, Aquatic, and Natural Resources (AANR) Sector Research and Development Program, collectively funded at P1 billion, signifies a strategic plan to improve the state of our natural resources.

Moreover, the National Fisheries Research and Development Institute's Fisheries Biotechnology R and D Program - specifically, the Hatchery Production Program (HatchPro) - which has been budgeted at P70 million, forms part of this larger initiative.

Expanding food systems and productivity to benefit the entire population, especially agricultural workers, requires investing in agricultural infrastructure.

The Department of Agriculture’s (DA's) P17.3 billion Farm-to-Market Road Program, envisioning the construction of 1,144.58 kilometers of roadways, serves as a testament to this growing need. This initiative will not only facilitate the seamless transport of goods but also considerably reduce the associated expenses.

Water Security

In an effort to combat water scarcity and prepare for potentially climate unpredictable occurrences, the government has earmarked P31.2 billion for the National Irrigation Administration. This fund is intended for the development of 31,548 hectares of irrigated agricultural land.

Fisheries Development

To further promote the development of the fisheries sector, the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority will receive an allocation of P4.9 billion. These funds will be allocated to construct, rehabilitate, and enhance fish ports nationwide.

The remaining budget allocations include:

* The National Food Authority’s Buffer Stocking Program will be allocated P9 billion, which will be used to procure 473,684 metric tons of palay.

* The Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation will receive P4.5 billion for a program designed to safeguard farmers and fisherfolk from losses incurred due to natural disasters, crop diseases, and pest infestations.

* The Agricultural Credit Policy Council will be granted P2.8 billion to roll out the Agro-Industry Modernization Credit and Financing Program (AMCFP). This flexible credit facility will benefit farmers and fisherfolk who are registered in the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture.

* The Local Water Utilities Administration’s (LWUA) Water Supply and Sanitation Program will receive P364 million. The funds will aid in the provision of Level III potable water supply and proper sanitation systems. Additionally, they will support the implementation of sanitation projects in areas covered by the Manila Bay Continuing Mandamus. (DBM/PIA-Caraga)