TACLOBAN CITY- The Department of Agriculture in Eastern Visayas will be working on a smaller budget in 2018 primarily due to funding cuts for livestock and high-value crops programs.
From P1.48 billion allotment last year, the department’s outlay slightly dropped to P1.37 billion, said Elvira Torres, DA assistant regional director for research and development.
“There is a 58 percent decrease on livestock program and 24 percent on high-value crops. Overall, our regular budget is 7.57 percent lower than in 2017,” Torres said on Friday.
In 2017, the central government allotted P130.5 million to develop the region’s livestock industry and P156.65 million to hike high-value crops output.
This year, the budget for livestock dropped to P54.43 while the outlay for high-value crops went down to P118.13 million.
Torres, however, said farmers will still enjoy the benefits of these two major programs this year since not all of the budget was spent in 2017.
As of Nov. 30, 2017, only 29 percent of funds for livestock had been used. The high-value crops development program posted a lower utilization rate at 27 percent with just a month left before the end of the year.
Aside from the two major programs, it also reported budget cuts for farm-to-market roads (P377 million to P373.38 million) and locally funded projects (P198.49 million to P126.67 million).
In contrast, the rice program will have a higher budget this year from P373.15 million to P384 million and corn program from P93.61 million to P103.6 million.
The DA has been criticized by private sector representatives in the Regional Development Council for the very low utilization rate of the 2017 budget despite the need to develop the predominantly agricultural region.
Torres said that mechanisms are in place to improve spending this year through planning and intensified monitoring.
“We have complied to the request of the RDC to ensure that spending activities in the future should contribute with the attainment of target 3.6 percent to 3.8 percent growth for the farming sector,” she added.
Eastern Visayas is an agricultural area where 45 percent or 976,415 hectares of total land are devoted to agriculture.
Of its agricultural lands, 70 percent is planted to coconut and 20 percent is planted to rice and corn. The rest is planted to other crops, used to raise livestock and poultry, or produce inland fishery products.
Leyte has the biggest farmlands at 332,018 hectares, followed by Northern Samar (200,563 hectares), Samar (170,995 hectares), Southern Leyte (90,673 hectares), and Biliran (27,230 hectares). (SARWELL Q. MENIANO/PNA)