'There's enough food': DA tells consumers not to panic-buy during MECQ

The Department of Agriculture (DA) assured that there's enough food in Metro Manila despite the decision of President Rodrigo Duterte to intensify the lockdown restrictions in the country's capital and other areas amid rising COVID-19 cases.

The agency also reminded local government units (LGUs) to make sure that the movement of agriculture and food products remain unhampered.

In a virtual briefing Tuesday, DA Undersecretary for Operations Ariel Cayanan said there's no need for the public to do panic buying even if Metro Manila,  Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal returned to a stricter modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) starting yesterday (August 4).

"There is enough supply of basic prime commodities. You don't have to buy too much," Cayanan said, referring to food products like rice, chicken, pork, and vegetables.  

He also reminded that people found to be hoarding agriculture and food products will face consequences.

Meanwhile, Cayanan also appealed to LGUs to consider farmers, fishermen, and other personnel directly and indirectly working in food production as COVID-19 frontliners and that they should be allowed entry through checkpoints.

"Agricultural-related activities should be unhampered and the movement of people working here should not be hampered too," Cayanan further said.

In July, the DA issued a statement saying the country remains food-secure more than five months into the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said Filipinos “will have enough food on our table by the end of the year and onto the first quarter of 2021”.

This, according to him, is based on his agency’s mid-July estimates on the country’s food supply situation and outlook, which has remained “comfortable despite the constricted movement in the early weeks of the community quarantine”.

For rice, the country’s main staple, the DA forecasts a year-end stock good for 90 days.

This was after palay production increased by 6.85 percent during the second quarter of the year compared to the same three-month period last year, a data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed.

The increment was due to the increase in harvest area by 4.5 percent to 960,000 hectares, while average palay harvest per hectare climbed to 4.31 metric tons (MT) versus the previous year’s 4.21 MT.

For other major food commodities, the supply outlook by the end of the year is likewise favorable, which indicates a surplus of 237 days for corn; 182 days for chicken; and 20 days for vegetables.

However, no fresh outlook was given for the supply of pork, which has been negatively affected by the African Swine Fever (ASF) outbreaks.

“Given this favorable outlook, we will continue to implement our umbrella program called ‘Plant, Plant, Plant’ to further boost the production of major food commodities, led by rice and other major crops, aquaculture and fish, poultry and livestock animals,” Dar said.

“Likewise, we will vigorously assist our farmers, fishers and other rural folk to enable them to survive and recover from the momentary setback due to the pandemic,” he added.