Marcos to hold on to Agriculture post

PRESIDENT Ferdinand Marcos Jr. will continue to head the Department of Agriculture (DA) until “systems are all in place” to ensure the country’s food security.

Speaking to reporters after the ceremonial turnover of urea fertilizers from China Friday, the President said he has been waiting for someone to volunteer for the position.

“Tinatanong ko sa kanilang lahat, inaantay ko mag-volunteer sila mag-secretary. Ayaw akong paalisin (I was waiting for them to volunteer. They don’t want me to leave),” he quipped.

FERTILIZING FRIENDSHIP President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (center left) receives the fertilizer donation from China, represented by its Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, in ceremonies at the National Food Authority Compound in Malanday, Valenzuela City on Friday, June 16, 2023. The President, who is concurrently the Agriculture secretary, and the ambassador were joined by some members of the Cabinet and local officials. PHOTO BY RENE H. DILAN

Marcos said since he assumed the post in a concurrent capacity, he has put in place substantial changes to address the issues in the agriculture sector.

He said the problem was that during the beginning of the year, the prices of food and fertilizer shot up, triggering a crisis.

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The President said it is his wish that when he finally lets go of the Agriculture post “we will have systems in place so that we can guarantee the food supply [is stable], the prices are affordable, and our farmers make a good living.”

Marcos had said he wanted an agricultural expert to head the DA, and not a retired military or police official, given the complexity of the position.

“Agriculture is a very complicated subject. Hindi lang kung sino-sino basta’t magaling mag-manager (It should not be just someone who’s good at being a manager). They have to understand the science. … They also have to understand the system,” he has said.

There were calls late last year for the President to give up the Agriculture post because the agency needs a full-time head who can focus on the sector.

In a related development, prices of several agricultural commodities were higher during the first phase of June this year than the level in the second phase of May, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Friday.

The average retail price of bangus rose by 50 centavos, to P25 per kilogram in seven trading centers on June 1 to 5, with Cagayan de Oro City posting the highest increase, the PSA said.

Bangus prices went down by 89 centavos in the National Capital Region (NCR), by P10 in San Fernando City, by P25 in Cebu City, and by P30 in Legazpi City.

Eleven regions reported a rise in the retail prices of galunggong, ranging between P1.92 and P59.17 with the highest growth observed in Central Visayas.

A kilo of well-milled rice increased in price from P0.07 to P1 kilogram in nine regions, while its price in Butuan City dropped by 20 centavos and by 80 centavos in Cotabato City.

The price of native garlic went up in nine trading centers by as much as P30. Cabanatuan City posted the highest increase, while NCR recorded the largest decline in price at P10.44.

Six trading centers reported a decline in prices of red onion ranging from P2 to P35.

The per kilo price of vegetables per kilogram such as cabbage and carrots also went up by P13.50 in Cagayan Valley and P14.34 in Davao Region.

Brown sugar was selling between 25 centavos and P6.13 in six trading centers, with Cebu City having the biggest increase.

Cooking oil went down by 37 centavos to P27.50 in six trading centers with the biggest decline posted in Digos City.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. chief economist Michael Ricafort expected prices of agricultural commodities to rise further as some member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) experience warmer weather and other Asian countries reduce their output.

Ricafort said below-normal rainfall induced by El Ni?o toward the end of 2023 to the first quarter of 2024 “could reduce output of rice and other agricultural products.”

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