The Department of Agriculture ramps up efforts to secure adequate food supply as the country continues to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

During a Laging Handa public briefing aired over state-run PTV, Agriculture Secretary 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.

“Itong mga ongoing banner programs natin ay we have refocused them towards ensuring higher level of food sufficiency at ito yung isang major priority area pa rin natin sa pagsulong, sa pagreboot ng Philippine agriculture sa 2021 (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, the agriculture chief said the country’s sufficiency level is at 86 percent.

“This year, we are gearing to increase the rice sufficiency level to 93%.”

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.

“So pag tutuloy-tuloy po itong ganitong strategy natin at additional budget at paggamit ng makabagong teknolohiya ay talagang aangat po yung food sufficiency level (If this strategy is continuous, and with the additional budget and the use of modern technology, food sufficiency level will increase),” the agriculture head said.

The same must also happen to other basic agricultural commodities being pushed by the department.

He said he will make sure that food markets and food logistics will be supported so that in cases of emergency situations, farmers and cooperatives will have big food markets where they can sell their farm produce.

It is important, Dar said, that big trading centers with warehouses and cold storages, are directly connected to the farmers in the provinces.

He said they have a strategy called “agri-industrial business corridors” set to start in New Clark City.

Dar added that Clark will be the center of value-adding, processing, or manufacturing, in which the raw products to be used will come from the different provinces in Central and Northern Luzon, including the Cordillera region.

DA is also planning to build another agri-corridor in Taguig City, to be connected to the Laguna de Bay for the supply of fisheries.

“Ang laki ng potential nitong Laguna de Bay na magsupply po ng fisheries, I mean mga iba’t ibang isda, tilapia, mga bangus at kung pwedeng merong fishery port dyan sa Taguig so that all the municipalities around Laguna de Bay ay meron silang merkado diretso dito sa Taguig area or Metro Manila (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 Philippines is at 86 percent in rice sufficiency, then the country should have an option on where to get the remaining 14 percent.

“Increasing the budget of the agriculture sector will help increase farm production, thus increasing income.”

“It’s not that I want importation, but its an act of last resort Every opportunity na may dagdag na budget ang agrikultura ay maitaas natin yung ani natin at mataas din na kita so kokonti na lang if not mawala ang importasyon (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),” Dar said.

He stressed 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.

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