Proposed DA budget slashed
The Department of Budget and Management turned down the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) ambitious budget proposal for next year, slashing the amount to only P72 billion from the proposed P250 billion. Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a briefing organized by the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines on Wednesday that the revised budget for agriculture, under the National Expenditure Program, was only P1 billion higher than the 2021 budget of P71 billion and was 71 percent lower than the department’s request.
“There was no explanation [for the cut],” Dar said in a follow-up interview. “Another P20 billion on top of the adjusted proposal would be a good addition.”
On top of its annual budget for this year, the DA got additional funds through the Bayanihan laws, the annual P10-billion rice competitiveness enhancement fund and tariff revenues from agricultural imports which were allotted for specific DA programs. “We will continue to drum up support from various stakeholders so that during discussions in Congress, our budget could still increase in a big way,” said Dar. “We have seen why we need more budget. In rice, if you bring in all the rice budgetary support … that’s almost P79 billion and you have seen the outcome. The higher the investment, the higher the outcome,” he added.
Dar stressed in a phone interview that the DA was seeking a budget that was substantially bigger than the current allocation to be able to significantly increase support to the livestock industry, which was battered by two pandemics—the coronavirus and the African swine fever.
He said they were looking to increase the funding for the subsector by at least P4.5 billion to fast-track repopulation efforts and strengthen biosecurity measures in farms.
The DA also wants to improve financing for the fisheries subsector as it has also been registering declines for the past quarters.
For the first semester, the agriculture sector contracted by 1.5 percent, with only the crops subsector able to register gains. This has prompted the DA to adjust its growth target this year to 2 percent from 2.5 percent.