By Mc Bien Saint P. Garcia, DA-Communications Group
Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar reiterated the government’s commitment to providing adequate, accessible and affordable food for every Filipino family through the Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat or ALPAS COVID-19, otherwise called the Plant, Plant, Plant program.
In a statement, Dar said the Department of Agriculture will implement the Plant, Plant, Plant program as the centerpiece initiative to ensure sustained food production and availability, food accessibility and affordability amidst the threats of COVID-19.
In line with this, DA requested for a P31 billion supplemental fund, on top of the department’s budget for this year to carry out the program.
“Again, we wish to emphasize that the threat of hunger is as real as the threat of COVID-19,” Secretary Dar said.
“Hence, the government is giving equal priority and attention to continuously expand local food production to avoid potential shortage,” he added.
The Agriculture chief said the Department will carry out these strategies to increase national agri-fishery output through the expansion of areas to be covered by government programs. The use of advanced and relevant technologies to increase levels of productivity across all commodities will be also be intensified.
For rice for instance, Dar stressed that the possibility of a tightened global supply is always present, as traditional rice exporting countries are expected to favor securing stocks for their own people, amid increased demand and heightened restrictions in global trade and travel.
Earlier, the Secretary assured that the country has enough supply of rice for the next four months considering the current NFA rice inventory plus dry season harvest and continued rice imports. He said rice inventory by end of the semester “is good for 67 days.”
“For rice, our major staple, we have enough supply to tide us over towards the lean months. In particular, by the end of the first semester, our rice inventory is good for 67 days,” he said.
He said DA will also pursue the same level of adequacy for the other major agricultural and fishery commodities.
To help widen people’s access to food, Secretary Dar is encouraging big agribusiness companies and consolidators to invest in cluster farming, in partnerships with organized farmers’ and fishers’ groups.
“Together, we can hurdle this enormous global challenge,” he concluded.