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Food group presses for more support for private businesses

The country’s biggest food group pressed the incoming government to shore up support for private businesses following warnings of an imminent food crisis as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) said Russia, Ukraine, and India have ceased wheat exportation while many other countries contemplate keeping their food production for their own security.

“The government should provide the right environment and incentives for the private sector to invest, expand their production, value chain, and supply chain logistics,” said PCAFI president Danilo Fausto at the group’s first face-to-face assembly in two years.

He added that the private sector plays a critical role now that the country faces food security threats, along with soaring food prices, because of its heavy food import dependence.

While the Department of Agriculture (DA) has made importation its pivotal policy to produce food, the plan is a short-term solution that is not sustainable, PCAFI said.

The private sector provides 95 percent of the investments that support agricultural production, the group noted, adding that while faced with global hunger, the DA should, all the more, get a bigger share of the national budget.

The PCAFI said since the livestock and poultry sub-sectors are contributing a third to total agricultural production, they should get a sizable increase in budgetary allocation, from only 3 percent to 4 percent of the DA budget.

“With the supply of imported feed wheat now limited, local corn production should be raised. Corn supply is currently at a measly 57 percent sufficiency level. Feed wheat is an alternative to corn which represents 60 percent of feed ingredients. Feed itself represents around 70 percent of the cost in growing chickens and pigs,” Fausto said.

Cheaper alternatives to feed inputs should be tapped, particularly the feeds developed by Filipino scientists from University of the Philippines Los Banos.

Other improvements to agriculture that the group recommends to the new administration is the establishment of a first border quarantine facility as a safety measure against the African swine flu, which is also seen to help control smuggling of agriculture products.

The group also suggested that all tax revenues derived from imported commodities should be used for the benefit of the sector where the commodities were generated. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)

The PCAFI also pushed for the adoption of the following long awaited programs—the establishment of reliable and real time data information systems; incentives to investments and easy access to credit and capital; and, review of the implementation priorities of Philippine Guarantee Fund.

In addition, Fausto said the farm sector is keen on the institutionalization of the use of warehouse receipts in guaranteeing credit, which is a former function of the defunct Quedan and Rural Guarantee Corp.

A top official of the Department of Agriculture earlier said the incoming administration needs to earmark as much as P40 billion to avert an impending supply shortage of rice as he warned the country is facing not just a food crisis but a global food catastrophe.

“The food crisis might be felt towards the end of the year…We are giving a warning to the next administration, we do not know if the supply of rice in the second half of the year will be enough… If we do not give aid to farmers for fertilizer there might be a problem,” said Agriculture Undersecretary Fermin Adriano in a radio interview.

“World leaders are [saying this]… is not only a looming food crisis but a food catastrophe,” he said, pointing to the supply disruption triggered by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Adriano said that there might be a contraction of 1.1 million metric tons in palay output.

“We will need around P30 billion to P40 billion to ensure that the supply of rice in the country would be sufficient,” Adriano said.

Earlier, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the looming food crisis is due to the expected increases in the prices of farm inputs during the second semester of 2022, aggravated by the effects of the pandemic and rising fuel prices.

 

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