April 1, 2020 – The farm department has appealed to local government executives to loosen road restrictions to allow smooth transportation of food supplies from the provinces to urban centers, addressing concerns of small farmers and livestock growers to ensure food security as the Luzon-wide lockdown entered the third week.
Noel Reyes, agriculture assistant secretary and spokesman, said there is sufficient food supply but an artificial shortage could be experienced if deliveries continued to be held up at checkpoints set up by local governments outside the capital as a measure to protect communities from the highly contagious coronavirus.
“Nakikiusap po tayo sa ating mga local officials na let’s allow free movement of goods and food to the metropolis from the production area,” Reyes said in a statement. “Yung national and provincial roads maluwag na raw, pero pagdating sa city, municipal, and barangay, ay nagkakarooon ng kaunting issues.”
He also asked local officials to cooperate with the national government by revisiting the restrictive measures they have imposed, like blocking movements of essential workers and goods. Some roads were permanently blocked preventing food deliveries from going through.
Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez, for instance, said there was a shortage of a certain brand of bread last week after local officials in Laguna prevented workers of the food company to pass through a checkpoint, disrupting business operations. The food company has resumed operations after the road block was lifted.
Reyes said the farm department has recommended to the inter-agency task force for the management of emerging infectious diseases, the super body dealing with the pandemic, to loosen up rules on transporting food supplies, which had required delivery receipts and other proof of transaction when passing through checkpoints.
He also said the country has a 75-days rice inventory and was expecting 4.1-million metric tons of palay in the next harvest season. An additional 1.3-million metric tons of imported rice, contracted earlier this year, was also expected to be delivered in the coming months.
“Immediately after the harvest season, we encourage farmers to plant right away… Para may quick turnaround for the main season,” Reyes said. “Wala po dapat ipangamba, we have enough rice.”
The agriculture department also vowed to provide assistance in the form of loans to farmers and fisherfolks to encourage stable food production to assure the public of steady and stable supply during the lockdown period (Danielle Ann Gabriel / MM)
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