THE seed industry is asserting its status as a provider of critical agricultural goods during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) emergency, citing uneven enforcement at checkpoints maintained by local governments.

The Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA) said some local government units (LGUs) continue to block the transport of seed and agricultural commodities.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) issued memorandum circulars that permitted the continued operation of agriculture and seed companies.

PSIA President Mary Ann P. Sayoc said some LGUs have implemented their own community quarantine and checkpoint policies that are not consistent with those of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

“As seed is the starting point of the food system, unrestricted movement of seed is critical to food security. In order to ensure that food production will continue, all seed production, processing and distribution activities should be exempted from any ban,” Ms. Sayoc said.

Ms. Sayoc called for LGUs to comply with the DA measures to prevent delays in the supply chain that could affect food security.

She said LGUs need to comply with IATF-approved measures such as continued farming activity, exemption of all agricultural personnel from movement restrictions, continued operations of agricultural supply stores, and free movement of all supplies used in agriculture such as food packaging and manufacturing materials.

“If farmers do not get their seed in time for the planting season this will lead to food and feed shortages which we cannot afford during these trying times,” Ms. Sayoc said.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority, 24% of the work force, or around 10 million people, are currently employed in the agricultural sector.

“The movement of farmers and agricultural workers should also not be hampered since they are not only a critical link in the food supply chain, they also represent a large portion of the country’s working population,” Ms. Sayoc said.

DA issues passes to accredited vehicles carrying agricultural commodities and opened special food lanes for unrestricted movement of basic goods at checkpoints.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government also issued an advisory that reminded LGUs to comply with protocols to ensure food availability.

“Let us all work together. Public-private cooperation is very important in preventing the spread of COVID-19 without compromising our food security, the livelihood of our farmers, and the health and nutrition of our consumers,” Ms. Sayoc said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave