‘The threat of hunger is as real as the threat of Covid-19.’

Thus is the new battlecry of the Department of Agriculture (DA) as it pursues initiatives along with other government agencies to surmount the huge challenges, particularly in ensuring continued supply of adequate food at reasonable prices to consumers nationwide, during this national state of emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“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’,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said.

“Indeed, now more than ever, our food security frontliners — farmers, fishers and other workers in the food value chain — will play a crucial part in our fight against Covid-19. That’s why it is important that we continue to empower them to ensure continued production and delivery of food to our countrymen,” the DA chief added.

“We likewise thank the IATF for approving our Plant, Plant, Plant Program or Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Laban sa Covid-19, part of which is the P8.5-billion fund for the Rice Resiliency Project to expand production areas, improve yields, and ensure availability of rice in the country,” Dar said.

“The Plant, Plant, Plant Program aims to further improve our food adequacy levels through increased rice, food crops, livestock, poultry and fish production, including that of attaining efficient food processing, marketing and distribution to major consumption centers,” the DA chief added.

In particular, under the Rice Resiliency Project, we aim to boost palay production by the end of 2020 to 22.12 million metric tons (MMT), equivalent to 13.51 MMT of rice or 93% of the country’s total rice demand at 14.46 MMT.

“Right after the current dry season, we will urge farmers to plant more areas by providing them quality seeds, fertilizers, and appropriate technical assistance” Dar said.

The rice resiliency project will cover more areas this main cropping season, totaling 2.7 million hectares, broken down as:

  • 1.2 million hectares under RCEF to be planted to inbred rice;
  • 550,000 hectares planted to hybrid; and
  • 950,000 hectares to inbred rice.

“In all, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of our rice, corn, coconut, vegetable, sugar and commercial crop farmers and fishers, and other players in the food value chain, in ensuring stable food supply, especially to Metro Manila and other urban centers, in this challenging time amid the enhanced community quarantine or ECQ due to Covid-19,” Dar concluded.

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