THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will seek to promote to consumers fish alternatives that are readily available domestically to address supply concerns.

“Aside from improving the yield of agricultural inputs to help farmers (achieve) a better yield, we are also looking at alternative commodities like fish (beyond consumer favorites like) galunggong (round scad), bangus (milkfish) and tilapia,” Agriculture Undersecretary Kristine Y. Evangelista told a hearing on Tuesday at the House committee on agriculture and food.

The goal is to “strengthen our other produce and influence consumer preferences to shift to certain commodities that we have in abundance.”

“For us to be able to increase the yield of farmers, we need to engage them in our programs…it’s a whole ecosystem. Increase in production is one, shift of consumer preference is also a direction we are taking, and the last resort is augmentation with imports,” she added.

Last week, the DA said it is pursuing initiatives to improve domestic salt production with the aim of making the Philippines more self-sufficient. The department estimates that the Philippines is 93% dependent on imported salt.

“We have not produced enough… as far as the DA is concerned, we are focused on (expanding) local production… to meet demand requirements. Aside from identifying areas of production, there is a need as far as technology is concerned, not only for our marginal fisherfolk, but also (at) industry level to meet demand,” Ms. Evangelista said.

“This will help our fisherfolk (as) this is (will become another) revenue stream for them,” she added.

In onion production, Ms. Evangelista said that the DA has not yet prepared an import plan to address the white onion shortage.

“We have not issued import permits. One of the reasons (is) we want to make sure no imports happen during the harvest season. We have to make sure we are not flooded with imported onions while harvesting,” she said.

“As far as smuggling is concerned, our field inspector team is working with the Bureau of Customs and there have been smuggled onions seized,” she added. — Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson