THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it is seeking an additional P2 billion to fund the expansion of corn and sorghum production to help develop the livestock industry, which is heavily dependent on feed imports, in anticipation of a surge in meat consumption.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said Tuesday that he put in a request to Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III for the P2 billion, which will support the planting of an additional 100,000 hectares to corn and another 100,000 hectares to sorghum.

“This year and next year, we will focus on additional production of corn and sorghum to support our poultry and livestock industry because we are expecting dramatic growth, especially for the hog industry,” he said in a news conference Tuesday.

These additional planting area will add 600,000 metric tons (MT) to corn production, and 400,000 MT to sorghum production. Most of the expansion area for corn will be in Mindanao, where the corn crop was greatly affected by the dry spell. On the other hand, sorghum production will focus on under-utilized, marginal land including ancestral domain areas of indigenous people.

Seed companies have estimated that they have available inventory good for 110,000 hectares of corn, while the sorghum seed inventory will be sufficient for the planned expansion within 45 days.

Mr. Piñol said he is seeking to import 300,000 MT of corn to help mitigate the impact of the dry spell.

“[We will catch up] for this year kasi kailangan suportahan ‘yung [because we need to support the] hog and poultry industry because of the expected shortage of pork in the market,” he said.

He also noted the spread of the African Swine Fever (ASF) in China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Russia, among others, which could be an opportunity to expand the exports of the Philippine hog industry.

The DA said El Niño damage as of April 25 to rice, corn, fisheries, and high-value crops has climbed to P7.96 billion with an estimated volume of 447,889 metric tons (MT) in lost output.

It said the dry spell has affected 277,889 hectares of agricultural land and 247,610 farmers and fisherfolk. The damage estimate for corn is currently at P3.89 billion and 254,766 MT worth of lost production affecting 133,007 hectares of land and 105,937 farmers.

As a feed, sorghum’s advantages include the possibility of three harvests per planting. The crop is also a candidate for interplanting in coconut farms, offering such farmers additional income amid low copra prices. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang