DA: Food supply enough through 2021

Published April 12, 2021, 7:00 AM

by Madelaine B. Miraflor

The Department of Agriculture (DA) assured the Philippines will have adequate food supply for the rest of 2021, even as some producers face mobility restrictions amid the implementation of another enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in some parts of the country.

 During the recent meeting of the IATF Task Group on Food Security (TGFS), Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the Philippines will enjoy sufficient supply of basic food commodities despite the mobility restrictions brought about by the implementation of ECQ in the National Capital Region Plus bubble.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar (MANILA BULLETIN)

For the country’s main staple, the DA forecasts a 2021 year-end rice stock good for 75 days.

This year, the DA targets to produce another record harvest of 20.4 million metric tons (MT) of palay, higher by 1 million MT compared to last year’s bumper yield.

 The supply situation for other major food commodities such as vegetables, chicken, and fish is likewise favorable, according to Dar.

 “We thank our farmers, fishers, and other players in the food value chain for their continuing labor and resilience,” Dar further said.

 Meanwhile, the DA chief noted that he already instructed the DA Regional Field Offices (RFOs) to ensure the continuous delivery of farm, livestock, and fishery products to the “NCR plus bubble,” through farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs), and Kadiwa outlets.

He also reiterated his appeal to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and local government units (LGUs) to allow the unhampered movement of farmers, fishers, and other essential workers in the food value chain.

MB file. Photo by Jansen Romero

 The DA chief said that despite the easing of inflation, from 4.7 percent in February to 4.5 percent in March 2021, food prices remain a major contributory factor to the overall high prices of goods in the country.

 This is mainly due to the continued supply deficiency in pork, contributing 20.9 percent, according to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

The DA is hoping that the government’s move to allow pork importation at lower tariff will help ease inflation. President Duterte has already issued Executive Order 128 temporarily cutting the in-quota and out-quota import tariff rate for pork imports.

Likewise, Dar said the DA will continuously provide assistance to hog raisers and pork sellers, who are already badly affected by the prevalence of deadly swine disease African Swine Fever (ASF).

To ensure stability of pork prices, 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.

( Manila Bulletin / File / Keith Bacongco)

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

  They likewise reminded supermarkets, groceries, and market retailers to 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.

The DA also offers a P21/kg transport subsidy for local hog raisers who will be able to ship their produce to NCR and nearby areas.