P8 billion additional budget sought for NFA

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - May 18, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) wants to secure an additional P8 billion for the National Food Authority (NFA) to ensure that the country will have enough buffer stocks of rice.

The higher budget for the NFA is just one of the several proposed sets of interventions to revive and reboot the country’s agriculture and fishery sector after the coronavirus pandemic.

“We plan to augment the current P7 billion palay (unhusked rice) procurement budget of the NFA so that it could buy more palay and increase its buffer stock from the current 15 days to 30 days,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

Under the Rice Tariffication Law, NFA’s role has been limited to maintaining buffer stock through local procurement.

Dar said earlier NFA has been lacking warehouses and milling facilities.

Further, another P8.24 billion is proposed for a follow-up on the Rice Resiliency Project (RRP) for the dry season.

President Duterte earlier approved the RRP worth P8.5 billion that started this main planting season, aimed at further increasing national rice production.

The RRP further augments the P10 billion Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund and the P7 billion regular DA inbred and hybrid rice program.

“The initiatives will help reinvigorate the Philippine countryside, after surmounting the COVID-19 pandemic, by increasing food production and establishment of post-harvest, storage and logistics systems,” Dar said.

The DA has asked Congress for a P66-billion stimulus package under its Plant Plant Plant program which is part of the bigger stimulus package for the whole economy.

Further, the DA is looking at food logistics and food markets interventions, an essential aspect for supply chain management to grow and expand.

“While we have the metro markets and the bagsakan areas, these are not enough given the population that we have. We need to have an effective distribution system so that farmers can bring in their produce and harvests from the trading posts in the provinces and link them to big food markets nationwide,” Dar said.

The interventions on food logistics feature components including food markets, strengthened price monitoring and enforcement system, communication support, agricultural and fisheries commodity exchange system and digital agriculture.

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