Government allots P1.3 billion to diversify crops
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - March 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture is alloting an initial P1.3 billion to help farmers diversify their crops amid the continued influx of imported rice into the country.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said P1.3 billion of the P2.3 billion excess rice tariffs collected last year would be used to support the agency’s crop diversification program.

Dar said the remaining P1 billion would cover insurance.

Last year, the government generated some P12.3 billion in revenues for the importation of about 2.9 million metric tons of rice after the country opened the industry to cheap imports.

Under the law, P10 billion has been programmed for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.  Any excess can be used for cash transfer and support for crop insurance and crop diversification programs.

Crop diversification is part of Dar’s new thinking for agriculture and strategy to help farmers reduce their dependence on a single crop such as rice.

Experts claimed that crop diversification provides numerous agricultural and economic benefits to farmers. Aside from improving and breeding new crop varieties, it enhances the resistance of plants to various weather conditions.

Crop diversification will also increase crop portfolio so that farmers will not be dependent on a single crop to generate their income as cultivating only one type of crop exposes them to high risks of unforeseen climate events that could severely impact agricultural production.

The introduction of a greater range of crop varieties will likewise increase natural biodiversity, strengthen agro-ecosystem, reduce risk of total crop failures, and provide farmers with alternative source of income.

Dar challenged the country’s exporters to diversify their products to include emerging export winners like fresh and processed tropical fruits, natural rubber, and other coconut products such as coconut water and coco sugar.

Apart from crop diversification, the DA has revised the Philippine rice industry roadmap and vowed to continue validating the Registry System for Basic Sectors in agriculture, complete the streamlining of the National Food Authority and  intensify advocacy on farm consolidation to enable small farmers to survive the new system in the rice industry.

The DA will also arrange for greater private and public investments and provide technical advice and support to agribusiness on production, research and management concerns.

WILLIAM DAR
Philstar
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