Beyond Buzzwords: Transforming Philippine Agriculture!

DA appeals to UN to keep food, agriculture trade open

Author: DA Communications Group | 7 June 2022

The Philippines’ Department of Agriculture (DA) called upon the United Nations (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to keep food and agricultural markets open amid the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war.

In a letter to FAO Director General Qu Dongyu, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar appealed to FAO to “spearhead another global appeal to various countries to keep unhampered the movement of food and agricultural inputs as part of the global effort to build more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agriculture and food systems.”

Since the war between Ukraine and Russia broke early this year, inflation and food security worldwide reached alarming levels, triggering huge spikes in prices of wheat and other important commodities such as oil, fertilizers, and grains.

“As the war continues, there is a growing likelihood that food shortages, particularly of grains and vegetable oils, will become acute,” said the International Food Policy Research Institute in a statement.

This has led to countries closing their borders for trade in an effort to protect domestic food security. India, the latest country to join the food trade restriction bandwagon, tipped price surges further, and with other countries following suit, can potentially aggravate the food crisis situation.

The Philippines, being import-reliant as local food production does not fully meet population demand, is most vulnerable, along with other developing countries.

“As the Ukraine-Russia war persists, we are in for a food crisis, as with the rest of the world. It is imperative and urgent for the Philippine government to ensure that we have adequate, affordable and accessible supply of basic food items and agricultural inputs to ensure continued productivity,” said Secretary Dar.

With the disruption in the global food chain to cause a staggering effect to food affordability and accessibility, the DA continues to employ measures to mitigate these impacts. On top of the list is to boost the country’s local food production.

“We keep on looking for ways to ease the burdens of our fellow Filipinos as a result of the influx of crisis, one after another: the Covid-19 pandemic, African Swine Fever (ASF), and now the Ukraine war,” Secretary Dar said.

The DA restructured most of its programs since the Covid-19 pandemic to cater to the emergency needs of farmers, fisherfolk, and the consuming public. “Easy and affordable financing services, technical support, farm inputs, equipment, and machineries, among others, were provided to farmers and fishers,” said Secretary Dar.

In addition, a food marketing program through the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita was launched to help consumers have access to more affordable food.

To cushion the effects of price hikes in fuel, the DA provided subsidies in gas through its fuel discount vouchers totaling to P1.1 billion, which were distributed to corn farmers and fishers.

Currently, the DA is in full swing to produce and scale up the use of Bio N, a microbial-based fertilizer as a cheaper option to commercial chemical fertilizers which prices continue to swell. This is in partnership with the University of the Philippines Los Baños National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (BIOTECH).

“Given the exigencies of the times, we have to massively promote the use Filipino-developed technologies to enhance crop productivity and incomes of our farmers and fishers,” the agri chief said.

The DA believes that this will be a breakthrough in addressing present fertilizer woes, as Urea currently retails between P2,500 to P3,147 per bag. “Five to six sachets of Bio N can replace two 50-kg bags of urea per hectare (ha) planted to rice. The total fertilizer cost would mean P11,294 at the average of four bags/hectare. With Bio N, priced at P100 per sachet, rice farmers could save P10,694 per hectare for utilizing five to six sachets,” Secretary Dar said.

While efforts are being made and interventions are in place, DA said that the Philippines is still highly counting on other key producing countries to fill the gap in local production, thus restrictive measures can be detrimental to food security.

Secretary Dar iterated its conviction – along with the UN and the World Trade Organization (WTO) – that every effort must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, especially to avoid food shortage.

“Indeed, the global food market is intricately interconnected. Everyone has a stake in this and our collective survival will depend on having our interdependence remains as robust as ever,” Secretary Dar propounded in the appeal. ### (Daryl Lou A. Battad, DA-StratComms)

 

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