PH Intensifies Food Stability and Productivity in the Russian-Ukrainian Conflict
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Part 2 of the February 28, 2022 PRRD Special Feature)
The Philippines has stepped up its efforts to ensure food security, productivity and economic growth as the conflict between Russia and Ukraine continues.
President Rodrigo Duterte said mitigation measures and contingency plans will be in place, such as food stability, as part of the government’s proactive response to the conflict between Europe’s two largest countries in terms of of surface.
The government has prioritized the national economy, food price stability, social protection and exploring diplomatic channels.
Duterte endorsed the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) recommendation to boost local food production, implement Part 2 of Plant, Plant, Plant, and increase the buffer stock of rice. Rice farmers will be assisted. DA will address rising fertilizer prices through fertilizer subsidies and market access through bilateral discussions with fertilizer producing countries.
The president also approved fuel discount vouchers for farmers and fishermen due to rising oil prices. DA will increase production and do extensive research on how to reduce food prices. It will provide logistical support such as mobilizing food from provinces to cities via Kadiwa ni Ani to Kita and will deploy Kadiwa mobile vans and trucks.
DA will subsidize the cost of transporting commodities.
“We will also continue discussions with our partners and intensify negotiations with non-traditional partners to address threats to agricultural exports while improving our digital agricultural infrastructure and systems,” Duterte said.
The law on price control is also in preparation, if necessary.
“Plant, Plant, Plant Program”
DA implemented the “Plant, Plant, Plant Program” or “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Laban sa Covid-19”, to enhance food security during the pandemic.
This program has been endowed with a total budget of 31 billion pesos aimed at increasing the national production of agro-fishing through the intensive use of quality seeds, appropriate inputs and modern technologies to increase the levels productivity of all products.
The Free Irrigation Service (FIS) Act reduces the cost of production through the provision of free irrigation service. It relieves farmers and their water users associations from the burden and consequences of unpaid irrigation service fees.
Duterte signed Republic Act No. 10969, also known as the FIS Act, in February 2018 granting free irrigation to farmers with no more than eight hectares of land. More than one million farmers benefited from the said program in December 2021.
Republic Act No. 113211 or the Sagip Saka Act seeks to institutionalize a comprehensive approach to promoting the establishment of agricultural and fishery products businesses. The program is integrated and consistent with the agriculture and fisheries modernization plan and the micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) development plan.
Duterte signed RA 112043 known as the Rice Pricing Act in February 2019 to allow more foreign importers to supply cheap rice to the country.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said DA had done a balancing act to ensure food security across the country.
“With all the combinations of improving local production and increasing supply from other countries, we have enough food in the country,” he said.
Prior to the arrival of Typhoon Odette in December, agricultural performance was good and the country was approaching the positive growth trajectory. In terms of inventory of different commodities, the country’s rice stock at the end of 2021 was good for 115 days as rice production continues.
The use of modern technologies and innovation has enhanced the capacity building of farmers. Rice production surpassed the record 2020 harvest of 19.4 million metric tons. DA saw a breach of 20 million metric tons, which is a new rice production record in the country. The agricultural sector could have performed better had it not been for African Swine Fever (ASF).
“For poultry, we are more than enough. For pork, we have a mix of local grower supply and frozen pork, so we have more than enough inventory this quarter. For fishing, we have a closed fishing season, so more or less there is a shortage of fish this quarter. But we are improving our aquaculture sub-sector and other fisheries sectors so that ultimately we increase our fish catches,” he said.
Approved budget of P85 billion
The budget for agriculture this year was over 85 billion pesos, lower than the proposed 91 billion pesos, as indicated in the National Expenditure Program (NEP) presented by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). The budget was provided by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
“I believe in all respects, being an agricultural country, it is a sector that is underinvested, underfunded. With the right budget support, rice production will increase and I hope that will happen for others products,” Dar said.
“With a bigger budget, we can have a bigger bottom line. Rice production is well funded, if you include the budget of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the National Food Authority (NFA), it’s 62 billion We had a record harvest in 2020. Then another record harvest last year, with 19.96 million metric tons,” he continued.
DA cited the reasons why it has decided to have a new small pelagic import certificate for this quarter of 2022. The fisheries sector is one of the agriculture sub-sectors that has been hit hard by Typhoon Odette.
It is necessary to improve the catching capacity of fishermen. High fish prices in most markets contribute to food inflation. Logistical issues also need to be properly managed.
The National Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (NFARMC) said the country has more than enough supply, but based on data from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), there is a shortfall. potential of approximately 119,000 metric tons this quarter.
Dar said the NFARMC has the responsibility to recommend, but ultimately DA has the responsibility to ensure food security, in this case, fish supply. Dar signed a certificate on the need to import 60,000 metric tons of small pelagic fish.
“We have sufficient food supply except for products where we see a deficiency in the first quarter such as galunggong or small pelagic fish. We monitor the data, the supply and historically we know the level of self-sufficiency of the products that’s why we predicted it with the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), data stewards in agriculture and other sectors,” Dar said.
Typhoon Odette has impacted sugar production. Damage to the sugarcane industry reached 1.15 billion pesos. Sugar supply increased from 2.099 million metric tons to 2.072 million metric tons in January.
According to the Philippine Association of Sugar Refineries (PASR), refined sugar production will fall by 0.824 million metric tons.
“We will be importing refined sugar, otherwise we only have a balance of 54,355 metric tons of refined sugar,” the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) noted.
The SRA said the country’s refined sugar consumption in 2020 and 2021 has an average monthly refined sugar withdrawal of 82,564 metric tons.
The milling season started on September 1 and has a one-year milling cycle.
“We need to increase the productivity levels of any product, be it sugarcane or fish, crops and livestock. We are ensuring that farmers become competitive. We need to increase the production of farmers, fishermen, thanks to our interventions,” he said. .
There are different technology-based interventions in all agriculture sub-sectors.
Fight against smuggling
DA and the Bureau of Customs (BoC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on data sharing. The agencies arrested smuggled vegetables such as carrots and other vegetable products. Before the imported product arrives, they already know the contents and they inspect the shipment at the first and second borders.
DA, BoC and the Department of Trade (DTI) have joined forces to fight smuggling. They requested assistance from the National Intelligence Coordination Agency (NICA), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
Help local farmers and fishermen
One of the major challenges for farmers is the high price of fertilizers, which is a global phenomenon. The manufacturing countries have reduced their production and the major countries have accumulated stocks, so that there is little supply of fertilizer on the world market.
The Philippines, which imports fertilizers, has experienced this problem. DA has implemented a balanced fertilization strategy which is a combination of inorganic bio-stimulant and organic fertilizer and it has been successfully implemented.
DA discussed with manufacturing countries such as China, Iran, Malaysia and Indonesia the volume he needed and the price. After government-to-government negotiations, private companies will import fertilizer based on what has been agreed. This is an aid given to farmers, in particular to cope with the high prices of fertilisers. Decisions to import were based on the country’s deficiency.
DA aims to increase the level of productivity for food sufficiency. If there are gaps or deficiencies, they can be supplemented by imports from other countries. No country is self-sufficient because everyone is interdependent in the world.