Agri chief confident of achieving 2.5% growth in 2021

After the agriculture sector survived a series of challenges in 2020, Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar said they are confident of achieving their target of 2.5 percent growth for 2021.

“We are increasing our target to 2.5 percent growth in 2021. We should have needed more budgetary support but more investments from the private sector will help us unlock the potential of the sector,” Dar said in a media interview via Zoom call during the first anniversary of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger on Monday afternoon.

He reiterated that the DA was banking on 2020 to be the year they would reap the initial success of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) that was borne out of the Rice Tariffication Law.

The RCEF was implemented in 2019 to aid farmers in DA’s goal of increasing the competitiveness of their produce and income amid the liberalization of the Philippine rice trade policy that lifted quantitative restrictions on rice imports and replaced them with tariffs, among others.

“(The) Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic disturbed everything. It is the gravest challenge that we have, not only for the agriculture sector but for all the other sectors. During the start of the lockdown, 15 percent of farmers were not able to plant and for those who were able to plant, 35 percent of them were not able to market their produce,” Dar said.

He added that they were able to maneuver the worst to happen in the sector when the Taal Volcano erupted and quarantine measures were implemented due to the pandemic.

However, some other unprecedented events, such as the lingering African swine fever and the “santacruzan” of typhoons during the last quarter of 2020, pushed the industry into a riskier position, Dar said.

“In spite of that, during the second quarter of 2020, we had 1.6 percent growth in agriculture and other sectors had a significant contraction. Then moving to the third quarter, we had 1.2 percent positive growth in the sector in spite of the three lingering issues. Taking into account everything now, that is why we reduced our target before the end of 2020 to 1 percent growth,” he said.

While the threat of Covid-19 is still being felt in the Philippines, Dar said he believes that with the performance of the industry in 2020, the resiliency and persistence of the farming and fisheries sectors would manifest.

“That’s why we like to believe that 2021, while Covid is still there because of the resiliency of the Philippine farming and fishing sectors, they will continue to do farming, fishing, agribusiness. We have put in place for this year one DA holistic approach, all the strategies we would like to do next year will be under this integrated or holistic approach,” he said.

Dar said he aims to achieve a higher food sufficiency level in 2021 by continuing its existing programs, such as the RCEF, loan programs, and farm-to-market assistance.

President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the PHP4.5 trillion General Appropriations Act for 2021, which indicated a PHP71-billion allocation for the DA.

Of their banner programs, the rice sector has the highest allotted budget of PHP15.5 billion, followed by the fisheries sector with PHP3.12 billion, corn farming (PHP1.5 billion), high-value crops (PHP1.6 billion), livestock (PHP1.17 billion), organic agriculture (PHP 665 million), and Halal industry (PHP23.9 million).

Source: Philippines News agency

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