The Department of Agriculture (DA) crafted several strategies to ensure local food supply and to combat hunger in the face of a global health emergency, said Regional Executive Director Remelyn R. Recoter.

Part of the quick response strategy is the distribution of social amelioration or financing aid to rice farmers of Western Visayas.

So far, DA had distributed a total of P174.55 million to 34,910 rice farmers in Iloilo under the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance.

Meanwhile, the agency released P407.2 million to 74,460 rice growers in Aklan, Antique, Capiz and Negros Occidental through the Financial Subsidy for Rice Farmers.

“We had also released P49.5 million zero-interest loan to 1,980 individual farmers under the Survival and Recovery (SURE) Aid Program, and P14.6 million to three micro and small enterprises in Region 6 through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council and its accredited conduit associations and cooperatives,” said Recoter.

DA had also ensured the unhampered movement of food supply during the community quarantine period by issuing 10,093 food passes and 13,143 Inter-Agency Task Force IDs to farmers, agribusiness personnel, entrepreneurs, truckers, and suppliers regionwide.

“The Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita is one very important response that the Department has provided to our farmers as well as the consuming public. For the past three months, the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita generated already about P10.8 million gross sales,” she added.

Under the Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Kontra COVID-19, or simply the Plant, Plant, Plant Program, the Rice Resiliency Project (RRP) aims to boost the local production of rice through the distribution of farm inputs.

Of the P8.5 billion national funds for RRP, Western Visayas obtained P1.06 billion for the distribution of certified inbred and hybrid seeds as well as urea fertilizers to farmers listed under the Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA).

“We are hoping that we can increase the sufficiency level of the region from 117 percent sufficiency level in 2019,” she added.

DA also pushes for urban agriculture with the establishment of community gardens in three pilot sites in Iloilo City – in Brgy. Tanza Timawa Zone II, Brgy. Tanza Bonifacio, and Brgy. Tanza Esperanza in May.

In celebration of the DA’s 122nd anniversary today themed “Agrikultura ang Pag-asa sa Kabila ng Pandemya”, a ceremonial planting of vegetables was done in the 1,325-square meter lot of the National Food Authority (NFA) Region 6.

“We are hoping that this (facility) will be able to help the NFA employees and their clients. We are looking forward to making the area a vegetable seed production area,” said Recoter.

On the other hand, Asst. Secretary for the Visayas Atty. Hansel O. Didulo commended the initiatives of the regional office as well as the bureaus and attached agencies in mobilizing its personnel and resources in maintaining the region’s food-secure position despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

He noted that when the Bayanihan Act 2.0 will be passed, there will be an additional stimulus package for farmers and fisherfolk. (By Sheila Mae Toreno/DA-RAFIS 6)