THE Department of Agriculture (DA) has obtained approval to remove restrictions on food production activities, including the movements of farmers and fishermen who have been caught up in local quarantine orders during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.
Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said that workers in the agriculture and fisheries sectors play a crucial part in sustaining the food supply as the country deals with disruptions during COVID-19.
“We are heartened that during the 21st teleconference of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), we approved ‘that all agriculture and fishery stakeholders must be considered frontliners and their movements shall remain unhampered’,” Mr. Dar said.
IATF recently approved the DA’s so-called Plant, Plant, Plant program which aims to increase agricultural production and more efficient food marketing and distribution to major markets.
Under the Rice Resiliency Project of the program, DA aims to achieve rice self-sufficiency to 93% by the end of the year. Self-sufficiency targets for rice were effectively abandoned under the Rice Tariffication Law, which eased restrictions on imports.
“We aim to boost palay production to 22.12 million metric tons (MT), equivalent to 13.51 million MT of rice or 93% of the country’s total rice demand at 14.46 million MT,” Mr. Dar said.
He added that the National Food Authority (NFA) is committed to maintain rice buffer stock levels by rice milling and procurement of the domestic harvest of rice farmers and cooperatives.
“We will see to it that the price of rice in the market will be guided by the prices before the enhanced community quarantine started,” Mr. Dar said.
Mr. Dar also advised the consuming public and local government units (LGUs) to proceed with the usual trade and only purchase food that they need for their weekly requirements to maintain balance in the food supply chain.
“We have our DA regional field offices moving around provinces, ensuring the movement of food supply from production areas to the markets. We are seeing to it that trucking is not impeded and that basic food items remain affordable,” Mr. Dar said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave