THE Department of Agriculture said Metro Manila’s population of around 14 million need not maintain more than their usual supplies of food as major commodities like rice are readily available.

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar issued the advisory in a news conference after the government adopted a “community quarantine” policy for parts of the capital region affected by the coronavirus (Covid-19).

“Don’t stockpile too much food. There is enough food supply that you can buy during this time of health emergency,” Mr. Dar said.

Mr. Dar said the current rice inventory held by NFA warehouses nationwide is good for at least 80 days and will be further augmented by the current harvest, providing additional stock good for another two to three months.

He added that rice supply is more than enough to meet Metro Manila’s weekly demand of 26,241 metric tons (MT).

“Together with stocks (held by) the private sector and households, there is a 35-week rice supply, amounting to 929,358 MT, in Metro Manila that can last for at least nine months,” he said.

He said based on 2015 Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data, weekly demand in Metro Manila for vegetables and root crops was 5,000 MT, well below the expected weekly supply of 17,302 MT; for poultry and meat 7,934 MT, against supply of 11,074 MT;for fish 8,000 MT, against supply of 10,264 MT; for eggs 25 million pieces, against supply of 42.5 million pieces.

In addition, Mr. Dar said that the DA’s food resiliency action plan will help ensure equal distribution of goods.

The action plan will include the strategic positioning of basic food commodities around Metro Manila. The effort will be directed by Undersecretary Ariel T. Cayanan.

Mr. Dar said the entry of food products into Metro Manila will continue despite movement restrictions under the “community quarantine” scheme, adding that supplies will continue to come in as usual.

“All vehicles carrying agricultural goods, regardless of volume, will pass without interference,” Mr. Dar added.

However, Mr. Dar said that adjustments may be needed if the situation worsens, including special lanes for vehicles carrying agricultural goods.

Typical precautionary measures will be implemented on drivers carrying produce to Metro Manila such as temperature check.

Suggested retail prices (SRPs) for basic commodities will remain in force, he said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave