MANILA – Despite the pandemic and other challenges, the Department of Agriculture (DA) did a “yeoman’s job” to sustain the government’s food security efforts, Malacañang said on Tuesday.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the food security was discussed during the 50th Cabinet meeting presided over by President Rodrigo Duterte at Malacañan Palace on Monday night.
“The Department of Agriculture has done a yeoman’s job in its food security efforts despite all the challenges we faced during the pandemic, as it sought to make food available, affordable, accessible, safe, and healthy,” Nograles said in a virtual presser.
He noted that the country established a record-high rice production in 2020, producing 19.44 million metric tons of palay (unhusked rice) that is 3.33 percent higher compared to the 2019 output.
“The growth of the agriculture sector also came hand in hand with the management of inflation as food supply and rice management efforts bore fruit, and a new food security framework was adopted,” Nograles said.
To build on these gains, he said, the government is adopting the DA’s recommendations for “whole-of-government action” in 2021 that would require the department to team up with various government agencies, including the Inter-Agency Task Force on Zero Hunger (IATF-ZH).
Under the action plan, the DA and other concerned agencies will step up the “Plant, Plant, Plant” program to include livestock, poultry, aquaculture, and fisheries; improve production, processing, and marketing logistics; sustain the implementation of price controls; sustain and enhance joint management and control of the African swine fever; reduce crop damage caused by typhoons; continue to enhance the tackling of the hunger concern as a result of the pandemic; and ensure closer coordination regarding messaging on food security in the country.
During the virtual 1st anniversary of the IATF-ZH on Monday, Duterte commended the task force for working hard to achieve the government’s goal of addressing hunger and poverty amid the pandemic.
The President also lauded the IATF-ZH for launching the National Food Policy (NFP), which, he said, “is indeed a welcome development not only in our search for solutions to our decades-long problem of hunger and malnutrition but also in our efforts to attain long-term food security in 2021 and beyond.”
He urged the task force, chaired by Nograles, to continue its collaborative work with other agencies in crafting programs and initiatives that “will improve the lives of the poorest and marginalized sectors of our society.”
During the anniversary, Nograles said the involvement of all stakeholders was “integral in the sustainability” of the task force.
Despite the pandemic and natural calamities, he said, the task force remains hopeful and diligent in ensuring that no Filipino would be left behind.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar, who also joined the event, said the agriculture sector is confident of achieving a 2.5-percent growth target for 2021.
“We are increasing our target to 2.5 percent growth in 2021. We should have needed more budgetary support but more investments from the private sector will help us unlock the potential of the sector,” Dar said in a media interview.
While the threat of Covid-19 remains, he said he believes that the resiliency and persistence of the farming and fishing sectors would manifest this year.
“That’s why we like to believe that 2021, while Covid (coronavirus disease 2019) is still there, because of the resiliency of the Philippine farming and fishing sectors, they will continue to do farming, fishing, agribusiness. We have put in place for this year one DA holistic approach, all the strategies we would like to do next year will be under this integrated or holistic approach,” Dar said.
He noted that the DA aims to achieve a higher food sufficiency level in 2021 by continuing its programs, such as the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, loan programs, and farm-to-market assistance.
Under the PHP4.5 trillion General Appropriations Act for 2021 signed by Duterte last month, the DA received an allocation of PHP71 billion. (PNA)