Food supply sufficient, amid pandemic


QUEZON CITY, Apr. 10 — Despite mobility restrictions due to the enhanced and general community quarantine (ECQ/GCQ) status in Metro Manila and other provinces, the country continues to enjoy sufficient supply of basic food commodities.

“We thank our farmers, fishers, and other players in the food value chain for their continuing labor and resilience. Based on our inventory and projections, our food supply situation remains on the optimistic side, even as we are under ECQ or GCQ status. Hence, we assure our countrymen that we will have enough food on our table, during the rest of the year,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar, at the 24th meeting of the IATF Task Group on Food Security (TGFS), held virtually on April 8, 2021.

For rice, the country’s main staple, the Department of Agriculture (DA) forecasts a 2021 year-end stock good for 75 days. This year, the DA aims to produce another record harvest of 20.4 million metric tons (MMT) of palay, 1 MMT more than last year’s bumper yield.

The supply situation for other major food commodities — that include vegetables, chicken, and fish — is likewise favorable, said Secretary Dar.

“With this favorable outlook, the DA — in continued, strong partnerships with farmers’ and fishers’ groups, local government units (LGUs), and the private sector — will continue to implement programs and initiatives to further boost food production,” added the DA chief, during the IATF-TGFS regular meeting, attended by 60 top officials and representatives of 20 member-agencies.

He reiterated his instructions to the DA Regional Field Offices (RFOs) to ensure the continuous delivery of surplus farm, livestock, and fishery products to the “NCR plus bubble,” through farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs), and through the Kadiwa outlets. He also reiterated his appeal to the Philippine National Police and LGUs to allow the unhampered movement of farmers, fishers, and other essential workers in the food value chain.

The DA chief said despite the easing of inflation, from 4.7 percent (%) in February to 4.5% in March 2021, food prices remain a major contributory factor. This is mainly due to the continued supply deficiency in pork, contributing 20.9%, according to the National Economic Development Authority.

To manage inflation, he said the DA, in cooperation with agri-fishery industry stakeholders, has been implementing measures to manage the supply and prices of major food products.

“These include the temporary reduction of tariffs, and continued provision of assistance to ASF-affected hog raisers and pork sellers,” said Secretary Dar.

“We thank President Rodrigo Roa Duterte for recently issuing EO 128, which temporarily lowers the tariffs on pork imports, aimed primarily at increasing the supply of pork and temper prices, for the benefit of hog raisers and millions of consumers,” he added.

The DA and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) agreed to implement effective April 9 a suggested retail price (SRP) on imported pork at: P270 per kilogram (kg) for kasim; and P350/kg for liempo. The said SRP replaces the ceiling price on pork and chicken, as per EO 124, which expired on April 8. The decision was based on consultations with industry stakeholders.

Secretary Dar and DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez said there is no SRP for local pork and chicken, allowing free market forces to prevail.

They said supermarkets, groceries, and market retailers should comply with existing guidelines on hygienic handling of imported pork, as prescribed by DA Administrative Order No. 6, Series of 2021.

The DA and DTI, in partnership with Metro Manila LGUs and Metro Manila Development Authority, will create a ‘Compliance Monitoring Team’ to ensure retailers and sellers abide by the SRP on imported pork, and that it must be properly labeled as imported.

To maintain hygienic handling of imported pork, the DA through the National Meat Inspection Service will require importers to dispose their kasim and liempo into “saleable” packages of 1 kg and 500 grams.

Aside from supermarkets and groceries, imported pork will be sold in wet markets in Metro Manila, particularly through retailers with freezers and chillers.

Those without said equipment, the DA through the Metro Manila LGUs and market vendors’ associations will grant meat retailers chest freezers, with a capacity of 150 kilos each, worth P18,000. For this initiative, the DA is allotting P45 million for 2,500 freezers.

Further, the DA will continue to encourage raisers to supply the “NCR plus bubble” with surplus hogs from ASF-free areas in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

“As the country continues to face and surmount the challenges due to the pandemic, we should not relax with the ‘business-as-usual’ attitude. Instead, let us continue to conquer the threat of hunger with innovations and strategies coupled with decisive actions, for the benefit of all our countrymen,” Secretary Dar concluded. (RdelaCruz/DA)