THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said budget cuts for 2019 have prompted a shift in focus for its mechanization program in favor of a private-sector service model as it moves away from providing subsidies to farmers.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said during the department’s budget hearing on Thursday that repositioning companies to act as “service providers” to farmers is part of the department’s “strategic shift from subsidy to credit.”
“[They] are all private companies who provide farm services — tractors, planters, harvesters,” he added, noting that two such companies are operating in Mindanao.
“We are pursuing this because there are companies that like to invest in agriculture but they simply do not know where they would be able to invest.”
The DA was given P55.9 billion for its 2019 budget, P6 billion less from this year’s budget, amid concerns it cannot fully utilize its funds.
Mr. Piñol told reporters last week that the DA is reviewing a program to provide seed to farmers in order to cut costs.
“The unused stock of seed is a total waste of money and given the fact that our budget was reduced by P6 billion, we have to cut down on some unnecessary expenses,” he added.
Mr. Piñol said the DA will continue with its programs to enhance productivity of small farmers and fisherfolk through easy-access loan programs.
“This is mainly because of the fact that we cannot possible give out free support to everybody,” he added.
The DA has a loan budget of P5.1 billion, which is expected to cover 74,000 beneficiaries. The full implementation of the lending program is expected to take effect by 2020. — Arra B. Francia