By Gumamela Bejarin, DA-AFID
The Department of Agriculture (DA) will ensure that food will be available from production to consumption during the enhanced community quarantine through its Food Resiliency and Recovery Action Plan, as adopted by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-IED).
“The threat of hunger is as real as the threat of COVID-19,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said emphasizing that equal priority and attention should be given to food production to avoid potential social unrest.
With the three-pronged objectives of food productivity and availability, food accessibility and mobility, and food price stability, the DA is proactively crafting programs, projects, and activities (PPAs) to be implemented in a crisis-oriented environment and ensure food security throughout the year.
“The DA will focus on these PPAs during the state of public health emergency, while still performing our regular tasks,” the Secretary said.
The DA Service Continuity Planning and Management Team (SCPMT) ensures that the Department’s skeletal workforce and work-from-home personnel continue to deliver outputs and services to the public.
Immediate, short-term, and long-term plans for input supply, production, processing, storage, and distribution amid the enhanced community quarantine were also discussed.
“We want to ensure that the farmers and fisherfolk will have enough income during this environment of COVID-19,” Dar said.
Social protection and amelioration programs will be implemented to include the provision of cash assistance, supply of personal protective equipment and medicine, access to information and health care, and insurance for the farmers, fishers, and workers who continue to produce food for the country.
The DA and its regional field offices will also work with local government units to enhance food production in the countryside and help facilitate transportation of farmers and fisherfolk in bringing their produce to public markets, among others.
In terms of food supply mobility, the DA-Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) monitors availability from source to market, prepositions supply to meet demand, accommodates text-based requests for supply, and issues food pass to ensure unhampered movement of cargoes.
Price freeze for basic necessities and prime commodities is also in effect through Memorandum Circular 77 issued by Malacanang and the Joint Memorandum No. 2020-01 by DA, Department of Trade and Industry, and Department of Health.
To enhance food supply availability and sustain food price stability, the DA has proposed for P1 billion supplemental budget to cover the upscaling of Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita, enhanced mobility food supply, and massive promotion of urban agriculture.
The budget will also cover mass production and distribution of planting materials, fingerlings, and animal breeds, provision of DA services on wheels, production of information, education and communication materials, and provision of incentives for staff in the frontlines.