The Department of Agriculture (DA) fully supports the joint statement issued by the chiefs of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) for governments to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the movement and trade of food, farm and fishery inputs, and basic necessities.
Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said since the enforcement of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon, the DA has been continuously partnering with local government units, the police and military who man the checkpoints to ensure the unhampered movement of goods, particularly food and agriculture-related products, so as not to further disrupt the food supply chain affected by the ECQ due to the CoViD-19 pandemic.
“As a key member of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), we have recommended a host of measures to mitigate the problems on the distribution of food and food-related products, including movement of farmers, fishers and workers in the food chain, which were favorably approved by the IATF,” said secretary Dar.
Among the IATF-approved measures include the:
- Issuance of a joint administrative order that fast-tracks the release of cargo in the country’s major shipping ports;
- A newly-developed high-tech online identification system that uses QR (quick response) code system to ease traffic flow in checkpoints;
- A food pass system for suppliers and distributors of agri-related products and services; • Market-matching between producers and LGUs for the procurement of food subsidy to households affected by the ECQ; and
- Establishment of Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita outlets that sell various food products direct from farmers to consumers, including Kadiwa Express and Kadila Online e-marketing of farm products.
QU Dongyu, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Roberto Azevêdo—directors-general of the FAO, WHO, and WTO, respectively—in their statement, said:
“In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, every effort must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, especially to avoid food shortage.
“Similarly, it is also critical that food producers and food workers at processing and retail level are protected to minimize the spread of the disease within this sector and maintain food supply chains.
“Consumers, in particular the most vulnerable, must continue to be able to access food within their communities under strict safety requirements.”
Disruptions — including hampering the movement of agricultural and food industry workers and extending border delays for food containers — result in the spoilage of perishables and increasing food waste. Food trade restrictions could also be linked to unjustified concerns on food safety, they pointed out.
The UN agency chiefs urged that: “Now is the time to show solidarity, act responsibly and adhere to our common goal of enhancing food security, food safety and nutrition and improving the general welfare of people around the world. We must ensure that our response to COVID-19 does not unintentionally create unwarranted shortages of essential items and exacerbate hunger and malnutrition.”
Thus, secretary Dar reiterated his call to ensure the steady flow of food products to the markets, in line with the national directive for unhampered deliveries of agricultural commodities.
He earlier directed all DA regional heads to take action on concerns received by his office regarding problems on the transport of agricultural products from production areas to the markets.
“In this time of crisis, we will continue to assist and support our farmers and fishers,” he said.
Finally, he said the Philippines has secured commitments from the government of Vietnam to deliver previously contracted rice imports, as well as from Thailand and Myanmar.
Other Asian countries like India, Pakistan, and China have also sent word that they are ready to export rice to the Philippines, he added.
Meanwhile, the South Korean government recently donated 950 metric tons (MT) of rice to the Philippines, intended for Filipino families adversely affected by natural disasters and calamities last year.