By Adrian H. Halili, Reporter
THE Department of Agriculture (DA) needs to extend its planning for El Niño to address broader climate resiliency issues, analysts said.
“Since the DA is on the planning stage, it may be the proper time to consider seriously not just the El Niño but also the more serious issue of climate change,” Ateneo de Manila economics professor Leonardo A. Lanzona said via messenger.
Last week, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel, Jr. said that the department is set to introduce its strategy to develop the industry and boost production.
El Niño threatens agriculture because it is projected to bring drought or dry spells to about 63 provinces in the Philippines.
According to PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration), the government weather service, El Niño is expected to intensify between January and May.
“There’s no short-term solution to the food supply problem except to import more. This means lowering tariffs and relaxing quantitative restrictions,” Calixto V. Chikiamco, Foundation for Economic Freedom president, said in a Viber message.
On the other hand, Raul Q. Montemayor, national manager of the Federation of Free Farmers, said that the entry of imports must be calibrated to fill in for shortages to avoid oversupply condition.
“Too many (rice) imports depress palay prices and discourage farmers from planting or expanding their production, making the country more dependent on foreign suppliers for our food staple,” he said in a Viber message.
The government has recently extended the low-tariff regime on rice, corn, and pork meat until Dec. 31, 2024.
Executive Order No. 50 kept the rates for rice imports at 35% regardless of their source country, without reference to the minimum access volume (MAV).
The rates on pork meat, whether fresh, chilled, or frozen were kept at 15% for imports within the MAV quota and 25% for those exceeding the quota.
Corn shipments were kept at 5% for shipments within the MAV quota and 15% for those exceeding the quota.
“We need a comprehensive review of all existing programs, and if necessary, an overhaul of these programs given that the billions being poured into the sector do not seem to have had a significant effect on output, productivity, profitability of farmers, and competitiveness against imports,” Mr. Montemayor added.
Mr. Lanzona said the government should also think of products that it can export competitively.
To boost exports of agricultural and fisheries products, the DA has said that it is drafting a Philippine Agricultural Export Development Plan.
Separately, it said that it will seek to expand shipments of agricultural products to Japan, one of the Philippines’ largest export markets.
The DA has recently reassigned key undersecretary positions to streamline operations and “more efficiently carry out President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s marching orders to modernize the farm sector and ensure the country’s food security.”
Mr. Montemayor said that the reorganization would provide an opportunity for the DA to bring in new people and ideas, “instead of just repeating old ineffective programs and pouring more money into them.”