DA eyes 2% farm growth with RCEF

    ASF factor. Dar says crops would continue to drive agriculture output this year.
    “On the right track,” says DA Secretary William Dar.

    The Department of Agriculture (DA) is optimistic its target of a 2-percent growth for the farm sector for the year will still be achieved with the initial rollout of the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) particularly during the ongoing main harvest season.

    William Dar, DA secretary, said even with the ongoing problems on the African swine fever (ASF), full-year agriculture performance will still be positive as the crops subsector, which remains strong, is the major component of local agriculture.

    “All of the things were considered even with the ASF. I still have a positive outlook, of course not all your targets can be met, there are unexpected things that will not be considered, ASF for example but rice will still be the driving factor since the crops sector is the largest,” Dar told reporters yesterday during a briefing in Quezon City.

    When he assumed his post in August, Dar said he aimed to improve the performance of agriculture by an average of three to four percent per year in the next three years as the Duterte administration prioritizes national food security.

    Dar said RCEF aims to increase the national average rice yield from 4 metric tons (MT) per hectare (ha) to 5 to 6 MT per ha. RCEF also aims to bring down the cost of production of palay to P6 from P12 in the six-year rollout of the fund.

    But Dar said so far, the P10-billion RCEF for the year is fully allotted and that 32 percent or P3.2 billion is obligated.

    Dar said 100 percent will be obligated before the year ends.

    Under RCEF provisions, P5 billion will be coursed through the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) for farm mechanization annually, while another P3 billion will be channelled through the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) for inbred seed development and promotion.

    Another P1 billion will be shared by Landbank and the Development Bank of the Philippines for credit programs as the remaining P1 billion will be used by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the Agricultural Training Institute, PhilRice and PhilMech for training and extension programs.

    Agriculture production dropped 1.27 percent in the second quarter of the year, pulled down by the contraction of the crops subsector.

    In 2018, agriculture grew by a mere 0.56 percent dragged by the onslaught of 13 weather disturbances that year.