Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Wednesday underscored the need to introduce policy shifts in governing food systems to achieve the “overarching goal” of ensuring food security in the country amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
During the first Pre-State of the Nation Address (Pre-SONA) forum, Dar said the Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented crisis that has impacted food systems, disrupted agricultural value chains and movements, and posed risks to household food security.
Dar said policy shifts in the country’s food system are required in the new normal to support the agricultural sector’s role in supplying the food requirements of the population.
“With that, we are eyeing to look at policy shifts during this new normal and we just adopted a new food security framework which had been approved by the IATF (Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases),” Dar said.
“There must be transformation everywhere in food systems from production to consumption and all places in between which will compel us to do things differently,” he added.
The approved food security framework provides an overall vision and high-level goals for the sector to attain in the immediate and short-term. It focuses on five objectives of food production, namely: availability, accessibility, affordability, price stability, and food safety.
Dar said the policy shifts aim to empower those marginalized in the food system and support diverse distribution efforts; harness the food system’s interconnectedness with other sectors toward building resilience; address hunger and all forms of malnutrition, and provide solutions that are context-specific.
DA’s response to Covid-19 crisis
Dar noted that the pandemic resulted in bottlenecks in movement and logistics that prevented the delivery of food supply from provinces to urban consumers.
He, however, assured the public that the country has enough food supplies in the next six months.
“Itong last 100 days we have seen na ang pinaka problema po dito ay (In the last 100 days, we have seen that the main problem) was more a problem of logistics and movement of food supplies,” he said. “We have enough food supplies during the last 100 days and we’ll continue to have enough food supplies in the next six months and beyond.”
Dar said they have introduced the “Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita” direct marketing program to benefit both consumers and producers. This setup brings farmers’ produce from provinces directly to consumers in urban areas.
Dar said the Kadiwa efforts have generated sales of around PHP5.5 billion to participating farmers.
“The sales as a result of the intervention coming from Kadiwa ay nasa level ng (is at the level of) PHP5.5 billion. It’s formidable. It’s such an important intervention that we will continue to institutionalize even under this new normal,” he said.
Aside from Kadiwa, Dar said the department has also put in place an “overall umbrella program” to elevate and increase food sufficiency level during the new normal.
The “Plant, Plant, Plant Program” seeks to increase national agri-fishery output through intensified use of quality seeds, appropriate inputs, modern technologies to increase levels of productivity across all commodities, and thus ensure food productivity, availability, accessibility and affordability amidst the threat of Covid-19.
Through this program, the agency will pursue a PHP8.5-billion Rice Resiliency Project aimed at producing more rice to increase the country’s sufficiency level from the present 87 percent to 93 percent.
“We are working with the farmers and fishers to produce enough food and we are there nurturing and catalyzing all these efforts in tandem with various stakeholders, the local government units so that the level of productivity that we have to have and the desired income for the farming and fishing sector will happen,” he said. (PNA)