Recto sees agri turnaround

House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto sees a big turnaround after the infusion of more funds into the Department of Agriculture.

“You can say that this is the beginning of the end of a funding drought,” said Recto, noting that it took President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to lead the agency to get the budget increase it needs.

Under the National Expenditure Program submitted by the Department of Budget, DA’s proposed budget for next year is P102.15 billion, up by 44 percent from P71 billion this year.

Recto said the budget is what the people desired, noting the hefty budget increases that eight big agencies will get from the government.

Subsidies to the National Food Authority, Sugar Regulatory Administration, National Irrigation Administration, Philippine Rice Research Institute, Philippine Fisheries Development Authority, National Tobacco Administration, Philippine Coconut Authority and National Dairy Authority will increase by 33 percent this year, from P46.2 billion to P62 billion.

Enumerating the agencies, Recto said the NFA would see the largest increase, a 71-percent increase from P7 billion to P12 billion, allowing it to increase its buffer stock capacity from nine days to 15 days.

It is followed by SRA with a budget subsidy of P1 billion, a 41-percent increase over this year’s P712.2 million.

At the so-called “DA Proper,” the Office of the Secretary will see its budget surge from P61 billion to P90.2 billion, a 48-percent or P29-billion hike. The National Rice Program allocation will be doubled from P15.8 billion in 2022 to P30.5 billion in 2023.

Of the amount, P19.5 billion will go for fertilizer support, which, according to Recto, is “a must at this time when fertilizer prices have gone through the roof.”

He said when crops are denied nutrients, the consequent low harvest deprives the people of sustenance, as in Sri Lanka.

Under the DA plan, P5.2 billion will be plowed for the corn sector, P5 billion for livestock, P2 billion for high-value crops, and P5.2 for fisheries.

Recto said the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority would increase its funding by 66 percent, from P156 million to P259 million, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will see its funding increase by 35 percent, from P4.7 billion to P6.3 billion.

The DA, according to Recto, will ramp up infrastructure spending by P13.1 billion for farm-to-market roads and P29.5 billion for irrigation.

He said the projected increase in the DA budget stems from a global survey that ranks the Philippines 146th out of 171 countries in food security.

Maraming kulang. Mula asukal, isda, sibuyas, pati bigas. Our food import bill is rising. The steep rise in the cost of production inputs, from fertilizer to fuel, has lowered production while increasing food prices,” he said.

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