CONGRESS should allocate more funding to crops like corn and sugar, a policy think tank attached to the House of Representatives said.

“Since rice is the main staple in the Philippines, the resource allocation to the National Rice Program theoretically aligns with the objective of preserving food security. However, the rice-centric budget could be detrimental to the other programs — it represents an opportunity cost,” the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) said in a budget brief.

It noted higher productivity in crops like corn, onion and sugarcane in 2022 despite the outsized budget for rice.

“Corn and some high-value crops seem to be more efficient than rice — the value of production grows, despite being given a fraction of the resources allocated to rice,” it said.

The gross value added from palay was only 3.60% in 2022, compared to the 21.6% gross value added for corn, 23% for onion, and 39% for sugarcane.

The government’s National Rice Program has a budget of P30.9 billion for next year, with its Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund receiving a separate allocation of P10 billion.

On the other hand, only P5.28 billion is earmarked for the National Corn Program. The National High Value Crops Development Program will receive P1.94 billion from the Agriculture department.

The think tank also called for an increase in funding for agricultural machinery and infrastructure, which would increase productivity from planting and preserve agricultural products after the harvest.

“Despite the urgency, no specific amount has been allocated to the additional provision of cold-storage facilities and postharvest facilities,” according to the CPBRD.

The agricultural machinery, equipment, facilities and infrastructures program suffered a 27.17% decline in funding to P8.3 billion in 2024.

“It is still worth noting that a substantial reduction in budget would limit the capital outlays to support the agricultural sector — possibly forcing a trade-off between the machinery, equipment, and facilities provided,” the CPBRD said.

The House of Representatives passed the Marcos administration’s spending plan on Sept. 27 with a P181.4-billion total budget for agriculture.

A small committee provided an additional P20 billion to subsidize low-cost rice, P40 billion to install solar-powered and subsidized irrigation pumps, P1.5 billion to procure vaccines against African Swine Fever, and another P2 billion for the planting and replanting of coconut seedlings.

The Senate is still conducting its own budget deliberations and is set to approve its version of the spending plan by November. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz