President as agri chief: Inquirer

1 week ago 31

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER) - To prove that his administration was putting the task of curing the ills plaguing the country's beleaguered agriculture sector as a "high priority," President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. made the surprise announcement on Monday (June 20) that he would take on the added role of agriculture secretary when he begins his six-year term on June 30.

"We're going back to basics … and we will rebuild the value chain of agriculture," Marcos Jr. declared in the briefing, "That is why I thought it is important that the President take that portfolio."

The incoming president certainly has his work cut out for him as concurrent head of this vital agency responsible for one of the country's major growth engines, but whose contribution to the economy has been steadily declining over the past five years.

Outgoing Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary William Dar, who hailed Marcos Jr.'s decision as a "victory" for the sector and a sign of "political will," said that Marcos Jr.'s first order of business should be to ensure a sufficient and affordable food supply, amid the grave threat of a global food crisis that has already caused prices of basic commodities to escalate.

"More than 20 countries have made restrictions on the export of their food products, and the lingering war in Ukraine continues… If I have to equate this, this is like a pandemic as well," said Dar, who had drawn flak for his food importation policy.

Marcos Jr. will also have to scramble for urgent solutions to the declining local production of rice, as some farmers have been unable to use as much fertiliser to boost their farms' yield because farm inputs have simply become too expensive. Fertiliser prices have nearly tripled as of May to about P3,000 (S$76.50) for a 50-kilo bag of the commonly used urea, from just P1,200 a year ago, and just P800 in 2020, following the surge in prices of petroleum products that are heavily used to produce this commodity.

Compounding these already formidable challenges are urgent concerns over the rampant smuggling of agricultural products and the massive importation of key commodities, from rice to meat and fish. These have discouraged local farmers from ramping up their output, making the Philippines even more vulnerable to global disruptions in the food chain and volatile import prices.

Agriculture groups are optimistic, however, that with the ...

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