THE agriculture sector’s budget allocations were “measly” over the last 10 years, and out of all proportion to the industry’s contribution to the economy, Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said.

“While the agriculture sector contributes about 10% to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), it gets a measly share of total national appropriations, at 3% to 5% over the last 10 years,” Mr. Dar said at a hearing before the House Committee on Agriculture and Food Wednesday.

On Wednesday, Mr. Dar asked the national government for a P284.4-billion budget in 2021, more than three times its 2020 budget.

Under the proposal, Mr Dar said P61.8 billion will fund current DA programs in 2021 and P222.6 billion will go to new projects.

“The stakes are high. If we were to ensure that agriculture contributes its full potential in the country’s economic recovery in the ‘new normal,’ we need to augment the budget of the Department of Agriculture (DA),” Mr. Dar said.

If the proposal is approved, the DA said the rice industry will receive P56 billion; fisheries P22.5 billion; high-value crops P13.7 billion; livestock and poultry P11.2 billion; and corn P6.6 billion, with the aim of boosting output.

The DA plans to allocate P130 billion to support locally-funded projects, build farm-to-market roads, implement a soil health program, and help entice young farmer P7.15 billion for foreign-assisted projects such as the Philippine Rural Development Project; P3 billion for market development services; and P960.4 million for organic agriculture.

“In all, the budget is intended to sustain, reboot, and grow Philippine agriculture and fisheries sector, amid the challenges brought by the pandemic and into the ‘new normal,’” Mr. Dar said.

Quezon Province First District Rep. Wilfrido Mark M. Enverga said at the hearing that the budget request is just a wish list at the moment, due to the large jump in funding being contemplated. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave