President Rodrigo Duterte cited the Department of Agriculture (DA) as one of the top-performing national government agencies in 2020, as it successfully assured affordable, accessible, and healthy food supply, amid the logistical challenges due to the community lockdowns and for dousing fears of a food shortage that could have triggered queues or “pila”.

The President commended Secretary William Dar, during a recent Cabinet meeting in Malacanang, where the agriculture chief presented the outcomes of the Duterte administration’s major initiatives to prop up the country’s agriculture and fishery sector.

Dar said Duterte recognized all of the DA’s efforts and outcomes last year, saying: “I must congratulate you. Your department is one of the top performers in 2020!”

“That’s another salute to Secretary Dar!”

During the meeting, the agriculture head said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez also shared the positive outcomes of the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) and the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), particularly the stable rice prices and record palay production in 2020 — to which the President Duterte said: “That’s another salute to Secretary Dar!”

Last year’s prices of regular-milled rice ranged from P34 to P36 per kilo, versus more than P40 per kilo in 2018-2019.

More importantly, palay production in 2020 is projected to reach a record high of 19.44 million metric tons (MMT), breaching the 19.27-MMT output in 2017, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

As a result, the country’s rice adequacy level stands at 90%, which the DA aims to bring up to 95% this year, targeting yet another record harvest of 20.4 MMT.

Dar also reported that amid the Taal Volcano eruption, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the series of strong typhoons, the agriculture sector posted a positive growth: 1.6% in the second quarter (Q2); 1.2% in Q3; and about 1% for the entire 2020.

“We will continue to work even harder this 2021 so that the Philippine agriculture sector can ‘survive, reboot, and grow’ under the new normal.”

“On behalf of the DA family and the IATF task group on food security — together with other departments, agri-fishery industry stakeholders, local government units, and farmers’ and fisherfolk’s groups — we will continue to work even harder this 2021 so that the Philippine agriculture sector can ‘survive, reboot, and grow’ under the new normal and enhance its contribution to nation-building,” he added.

Invoking the “whole of government strategy,” Dar enjoined fellow Cabinet members to strongly team up with the DA in the vigorous implementation of the Duterte administration’s Plant, Plant, Plant program, and attain a 2.5% agriculture sector growth, and thus help propel the country’s economic recovery.

In particular, Dar said the DA will continue to increase farm and fishery productivity, increase incomes of farmers and fisherfolk, and subsequently reduce poverty and hunger.

He also enumerated eight key result areas (KRAs) that were approved by President Duterte and the Cabinet, inviting them and their respective departments and agencies to support and partner with the DA to undertake the following:

  • Intensify implementation of the Plant, Plant, Plant program that also covers livestock, poultry, aquaculture and fisheries, including urban agriculture, and Gulayan sa Barangay at Paaralan;
  • Improve agri-fishery production, processing, marketing, and logistical support;
  • Sustain implementation of the joint circular on price control, led and coordinated by the local price coordination councils (LGUs, DTI, DA DOH, and PNP);
  • Sustain and enhance management, prevention and control of African Swine Fever (ASF) through the “Bantay ASF sa Barangay,” coupled with the implementation of a swine repopulation program;
  • Adjust rice planting calendar to reduce crop damage caused by typhoons;
  • Localize implementation of DA-DOH policy on food safety;
  • Enhance war against hunger as a result of the pandemic; and
  • Ensure closer coordination on messaging with regards to food security and other related strategic communications initiatives. 
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