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Agriculture chief urges increased food production amid Ukraine conflict

Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) emphasized the need to boost local food production amid the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine as this will lead to higher global food prices.

“The convergence of all the global challenges like increasing petroleum prices, distortion of the global supply chain, increase in shipping costs, increase of prices of agricultural inputs like fertilizers, feeds and now the Ukraine crisis will definitely lead to global food price spike leading to higher food inflation,”Agriculture Secretary William Dar told The Star in a Viber message.

Dar stressed the need to boost productivity in the agriculture sector, which will lead to higher levels of local food production.

“We are going to increase efforts to implement Plant, Plant, Plant Program Part 2. This program is for all agricultural commodity industries which includes urban and peri urban agriculture,”Dar said.

The DA first implemented the Plant, Plant, Plant program at the beginning of the pandemic, which is aimed at increasing national agri-fishery output through intensified use of quality seeds, appropriate inputs, modern technologies to increase levels of productivity across all commodities, and thus ensure food productivity, availability, accessibility and affordability amid the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Apart from boosting productivity, Dar said the DA would also strengthen the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita, its direct marketing program, to link producers to markets.

On Thursday, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, urged the government to grant urgent fuel subsidies to the agriculture, fisheries and other marginalized sectors as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is further pushing oil prices up.

“The Philippine government must immediately suspend the excise tax on local petroleum products and grant urgent fuel subsidies to marginalized sectors in transport, agriculture, and fisheries,”KMP chairman emeritus Rafael Mariano said in a statement.

Reuters reported that  Brent crude oil prices surged to $105 a barrel on Thursday after Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

“The military actions of Russia toward Ukraine will likely further push global crude oil prices upward and have a domino effect on domestic oil prices, given the monopoly pricing of oil companies,”Mariano said.

“Prices of food and other commodities will also increase rapidly in the coming days, further burdening consumers and the public,”he said.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) said on Thursday the government is preparing to release P2.5 billion for the Fuel Subsidy Program of the Department of Transportation, which is  aimed at providing fuel vouchers to over 377,000 qualified PUV drivers who are operating jeepneys, UV express, taxis, tricycles, and other full-time ride-hailing and delivery services nationwide.

The DA also has a budget of P500 million to provide assistance through fuel discounts to farmers and fisherfolk who either individually own and operate agricultural and fishery machinery or operate through a farmers organization or cooperative.

“This will help mitigate the impact of elevated fuel prices on production and transport costs of farm and fishery products,” the DBCC said.

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