DA bullish on agri prospects despite Covid-19 pandemic

Author: DA Communications Group | 25 September 2020

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is confident that it could attain its full-year growth target of two percent for the country’s agriculture and fishery sector, highlighting its relative strength and resiliency, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We remain bullish on the positive performance of the agriculture sector this year, particularly of rice, corn and other major commodities, amid the huge challenges and economic slowdown due to the continued community quarantine,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar, during the 44th anniversary of the Philippine Agricultural Journalists, Inc. (PAJ) and 2019 Binhi Awards held on September 24, 2020, at the DA-BSWM Convention Hall, Quezon City.

“Our confidence is buoyed by the fact that the agriculture sector managed to grow by 1.6 percent during the second quarter of the year when most industries and economic sectors were reeling from the lockdowns and reduced activities,” he noted.

“Filipino farmers and fisherfolk took up the challenge of providing every family with accessible, healthy, and affordable food during the lockdowns,” the DA chief said.

“The men and women of the DA, from national to regional offices, have never mellowed down in our commitment to serve since the start of the community quarantine in mid-March while being mindful of the safety protocols that must be observed,” he added.

For the last two quarters of the year, secretary Dar said the DA family will continue to focus its resources in accelerating growth in key sub-sectors to hit the full-year two-percent growth target.

“This may be ambitious, but if the men and women of the DA family, with our partners in the local government units, inspiring our farmers and fisherfolk, then I can say we can attain two percent growth rate this year,” he added.

In his speech, he thanked President Rodrigo Roa Duterte and the members of Congress for their continued support for the agriculture sector with the allocation of a P24-billion stimulus package under Bayanihan 2.

He said the stimulus fund will enable the DA to continue and intensify its productivity- and income-enhancement projects, not just for rice and corn, but also for other commodity programs.

“It will also allow us to deliver social protection and amelioration projects to most affected farmers and fisherfolk as part of our flagship Plant, Plant, Plant program,” he added.

The DA chief is riding on the crest of an emerging consensus that an agriculture-driven economy is the best strategy to enable the country to rise stronger from the Covid-19 crisis and subsequently get stronger support and a higher 2021 budget from Congress.

Secretary Dar said the DA is currently defending its proposed 2021 budget of P86.3 billion, which is 8% higher than this year’s P79.9 billion. The DA is expected to meet with the House plenary next week, while its budget presentation at the Senate is scheduled in the second week of October.

“We are hopeful that our senators and district representatives will support our proposed 2021 budget, and maybe give us more so we can intensify our program implementation and provide support to a greater number of farmers and fisherfolk under the new normal,” he said.

During the twin event — 2019 PAJ-SMC Binhi Awards and 44th PAJ anniversary — Secretary Dar thanked members of the media in their continuous support and being “reliable partners” in coping with the continuing changes in the agriculture sector.

At the same time, the DA chief challenged the PAJ to stake out its position in major policy reforms initiated by the Duterte government, particularly the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL).

Akala ko tapos na ang issue ng RTL, but some groups have resurrected the old arguments about the new regime,” Secretary Dar said.

“We urge the PAJ to have a policy group and try to distill policy issues and make its position known. I’m hoping that you will support the reforms made by the government aimed at providing good for our farmers and fisherfolk,” he added.

He also urged PAJ members to “use the social media as a platform to state their position on key policy issues, saying that “matatabunan na tayo ng mga grupo na gusto lamang ay to discredit government efforts in advancing the agriculture sector and the department.”

“In an era of social media and fake news, please continue with your advocacy of reporting and celebrating with us even the smallest milestones in Philippine agriculture. Remain at the forefront of helping secure a bright future for agricultural journalism in the country,” he concluded. ### (DA StratComms)

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