THE National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the agriculture sector has not shown improvements commensurate to the funding support it has received.

“The observation is we have been putting hundreds of billions in agriculture over many years, and why is it (that the sector has not helped) farmers rise up the income ladder, and agriculture production growth, which should be at least 2%… (has not been) achieved,” Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua said Thursday.

“This is not only about the amount of money in the budget, it is how we allocate and use them,” he said, noting he has asked his staff to assess the industry.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon had asked why the 2021 budget for agriculture was reduced to P66.4 billion from P70.8 billion this year.

“Why is the agriculture sector not getting sufficient support from the budget? The proposal of the Department of Agriculture was cut tremendously,” Mr. Drilon said.

Mr. Chua said the poor performance of the sector can also be traced to restrictive policies that hinder competition and productivity, which are now being addressed by the government.

“For instance, we had the policy of protecting the rice sector, but at the cost of everyone buying rice at high prices,” he said.

This was later addressed through the rice tariffication law, which liberalized rice imports.

“With rice tariffication, we have reduced significantly the price of rice and at the same time (allocated) a guaranteed P60 billion for the mechanization (of) the rice sector.”

The government also condoned interest and penalties owed by Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries in the Bayanihan II law.

“It is not just the money; it is also how we deliver the package. I’ve requested my NEDA staff to evaluate the agriculture sector.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan