AGRICULTURAL suppliers said their cargoes and personnel have been blocked at checkpoints in Ilocos Norte and parts of the Davao region due to rules on movement set by Local Government Units (LGU) which do not comply with the guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).

The Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA) reiterated that its products are critical for ensuring sustained food production during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak and enhanced community quarantine.

In an e-mail interview with BusinessWorld, PSIA President Mary Ann P. Sayoc said seed must be permitted for transport without restriction to allow farmers to continue planting and producing food for the public.

“We need to grow our own food and not depend on imports from other countries especially during a crisis like this,” Ms. Sayoc said.

The PSIA has received reports of agricultural cargoes being blocked at checkpoints put up by various LGUs. Ms. Sayoc said Ilocos Norte has imposed quarantine measures on field personnel of seed companies.

She added that a PSIA member company reported that some LGUs in Mindanao such as Mawab and Laak, Davao de Oro and Tagum City, Davao del Norte blocked the passage of its trucks, even though they had food lane passes.

According to Ms. Sayoc, those vehicles carrying farm inputs such as rice, corn, and vegetable seed were told to return their cargoes to their points of origin.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) permits the continued operation of agriculture and seed companies and issues passes for their cargoes to bypass checkpoints and use special “food lanes,” in order to ensure the unhampered supply of food even to locked-down communities.

The DA also issues food passes to accredited vehicles carrying basic food commodities and opened food lanes for their unimpeded movement past quarantine checkpoints.

“Though some improvements were observed, all members still experience difficulties in the movement of seeds and their personnel,” Ms. Sayoc said.

PSIA said the seed supply is sufficient for demand, adding that the challenge is making seed accessible to farmers.
“We will continue to coordinate with the DA and touch base with LGUs to emphasize the importance of unhampered movement of seed and agribusiness personnel,” Ms. Sayoc said.

PSIA is also planning to partner with DA to make vegetable seed available to Metro Manila households under the Urban Agriculture project. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave