PASAY CITY – Sen. Grace Poe has asked the Department of Agriculture (DA) to focus its assistance on farmers, fishermen, hog raisers and other agricultural producers instead of going all out in its support for importers.

The senator made the call following the statement of Secretary William Dar at the DA’s anniversary that the country’s food security is “stronger” and the agriculture sector is “on track to prosperity.”

Poe emphasized, “We must improve the conditions of our farmers and help increase their productivity if we are to realize inclusive growth.”

The senator also said, “At a time when borders across the globe are again closing, we need to strengthen our own production of food and aspire for self-sufficiency as most countries have been doing since last year.”

It can be recalled that on June 29, the DA issued Memorandum Circular (MC) No. 13 providing grants of up to P5 million for warehouses and cold storage facilities when marginalized small farmers and fisherfolk were given only a total of P5,000 ayuda in November and offered loans of only up to P25,000 that they would still have to pay for.

“Before we even talk about value adding, postharvest facilities, distribution and storage, farmers and fisherfolk must first be able to produce harvests that can be stored and distributed,” Poe stressed.

MC 13 provides guidelines for its enhanced “Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita” financial grants pursuant to the declaration of the state of emergency under Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act that mandated the DA to prioritize financial assistance for rice farmers in the augmentation of its budget.

“We want to know how much grant the DA has disbursed from then until of late,” Poe said.

When farmers’ and hog raisers’ capacity to earn has been constrained by the African swine fever, the DA’s priorities have been in question.

Under the circular, only four types of activities would be eligible for grant: value-adding activities as assemblers of farmers’ produce; marketing logistics activities of consolidators or wholesale distributors; retail and distribution activities in consumer markets; and establishing Kadiwa stores in areas and their renovation and improvement.