In a separate online consultation, the National Sectoral Committees on High Value Crops (NSC on HVC)- Fruits and Vegetables (FV) and Coffee and Cacao highlighted concerns and recommended strategies to be included in the Plan and Budget Proposal (PBP) for Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 of the Department of Agriculture (DA) High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) and the National Urban and Peri-Urban Agriculture Program (NUPAP) on February 20, 2024. 

Led by the programs’ Director, Dr. Gerald Glenn Panganiban, HVDCP presented the 11-Billion peso proposed budget for 2025 to the NSC on FV and Coffee and Cacao, while NUPAP discussed the program’s 800-Million peso proposed budget.

Through the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), the consultation was part of DA’s commitment to increase the participation of the private sector in the preparation of the Department’s budget proposal.

“Nasimulan na natin ang iba’t-ibang strategies pero we think there is still more to do. That is why we are asking for your support again. We are under budget and yet nakakapag-deliver tayo. With your help, hopefully tumaas pa ang ating budget, kailangan pa ng supporta, para mas maraming magawa,” said Dir. Panganiban. 

He also encouraged the private sector representatives to submit to the NSC on FV and Coffee and Cacao their suggestions and comments on the proposed budget and strategies, for review. 

PCAF will consolidate and review the recommendations and suggestions from each consultation. The agency will have 10 working days to provide feedback and suggestions to the concerned agencies  or banner programs on the proposals. 

Meanwhile, NSC on FV Chairperson, Dr. Mary Ann Sayoc,  highlighted the importance of monitoring and tracking of existing projects and programs of the HVCDP. According to her, aside from the updates, the data can help them decide and plan for their future actions and strategies for the sector.

The call for strengthened monitoring and tracking emerged after Nueva Vizcaya Agricultural Training General Manager Gilbert Cumila asked HVCDP to explore the possibility of using a pre-cooling system to improve the quality of newly harvested fruits and vegetables. The system will slow down the metabolism and reduce the deterioration of the produce even before the transfer or storage.

In response, HVCDP’s Engr. Regine Patiño said that there is already an existing project called the Technical Cooperation Project on Market-Driven Enhancement of Vegetable Value Chain or MV2C-TCP,  which aims to strengthen the vegetable value chain roadmap by implementing inclusive business models by addressing price fluctuation, low vegetable quality, and high cost of transportation and wastage. 

Dr. Sayoc reminded Engr. Patiño to inform the Committee if there are updates on the program. Engr. Patiño informed the body that regular meetings are conducted and assured Dr. Sayoc to convene the MV2C-TCP Technical Working Group, wherein the NSC on FV is part, as soon as possible.

On the other hand, Office of the Secretary representative Cheryl Marie Caballero pointed out that there is a need to invest in good seeds and proper crop management. Dr. Sayoc also added that HVCDP should provide updated guidelines on procuring vegetable seeds, especially for highland vegetables.

Usec. Caballero also instructed HVCDP to strengthen the database system for crops, including coffee and cacao. The system should consist of data on production, land areas, land suitability, market, and even the forecasted volume and data.

With regard to data, NSC on Coffee and Cacao Chairperson David Santos inquired on the mechanism used to determine the baseline data and increment in the volume or yield of areas as basis of DA in providing assistance.

HVCDP’s Christian Almirez explained that they are in close coordination with the Philippine Statistics Authority on the official data used. Almirez also added that there is an ongoing initiative for the digitalization of coffee and cacao data. 

Aside from digitalization, the private sector raised that the budget should be allocated to support assistance to major producing areas that contribute to the overall national production. Meanwhile, HVCDP explained that they are considering realigning or increasing the DA’s regional offices budget to strengthen the production of coffee and cacao at the regional level.

HVCDP and NUPAP presented the status of the commodities in 2023, and their targets for 2024 and 2025. 

NUPAP’s Veronica Lopez discussed the challenges and threats to food security that could also impact DA’s programs. These include limitations of availability of agricultural land, pest and diseases, climate and disaster risks, untapped market and lack of sustainability plans, high input cost, and lack of interest of youth to farming.  

Anchored in DA Secretary Francisco P.  Tiu Laurel Jr.’s “Para sa Masaganang Bagong Pilipinas” three-year plan, Lopez explained the six strategies of the program to mitigate or limit the effects of these challenges. 

The strategies discussed include modernizing, climate-proofing, and scaling up food production system in urban and peri-urban areas, establishing  partnerships between cooperatives or business models and Small and Medium Enterprises, enhancing productivity  of urban farms through provision of farm inputs, augmentation of technical and entrepreneurial capacity of urban and peri-urban agricultural stakeholders, improving  implementation of activities through research and development, and improving crop growth and sustainability of operations through small-scale irrigation projects.

NUPAP also provided the body with the top 10 priority provinces which will be provided with bigger fund allocation. These include Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Laguna, Cavite, Pampanga, Davao del Norte, Negros Occidental, South Cotabato, and Cebu.

The Program came up with the list of prioritized provinces based on urbanization rate, poverty incidence, and food insufficiency. 

Both Committees passed a policy resolution recommendation to DA through HVCDP and NUPAP to incorporate to the FY 2025 PBP the valuable inputs raised by the NSC on FV and Coffee and Cacao | Jezebel Campaniel