The Department of Agriculture (DA) is seeking a bigger share in the national budget next year to be able to “reboot” the sector following the adverse effects brought by lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a webinar with the Inquirer on Wednesday the department had proposed a P240-billion budget for 2021, a 270-percent jump from the agency’s budget this year of only P64.7 billion.

This is to address gaps in the industry’s value chain. More than production, Dar said the pandemic magnified the agriculture sector’s problems in logistics, postharvest, marketing and distribution of commodities.

During the three-month lockdown that started in March, there were reports of farmers throwing away produce due to limited access to markets, while others have complained of the restricted movement of various agricultural commodities.

“We need to increase our food sufficiency level in all commodities. We need to develop the domestic industries and anything that we don’t produce here, we import,” Dar said.

To recall, the agency has already requested a P66-billion stimulus package from Congress to fund its “Plant, Plant, Plant” program, which would fund initiatives to improve all subsectors of agriculture, including credit access and extension services. —KARL R. OCAMPO

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