MANILA – The Department of Agriculture (DA) is proposing the importation of a total of 300,000 metric tons of rice to ensure food security amid the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
In a virtual press conference on Tuesday, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has recommended the DA proposal to President Rodrigo Duterte.
“The IATF recommends to the Office of the President the proposal of the Department of Agriculture to import a total of 300,000 metric tons of rice by the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) through government-to-government arrangements for contingency purposes,” Nograles said.
DA’s proposal to import more rice comes following reports that exporting countries are expected to hold rice shipments to ensure food security amid the prevailing Covid-19 situation.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier warned of the possibility of “a tightened global supply” as countries like Vietnam, the world’s largest exporter, decided to halt rice import to favor securing stocks for their own people.
To avoid potential shortage, Dar said the agency has laid out measures to continuously expand local food production.
In a March 21 letter to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, the DA sought for a supplemental budget of around PHP1 billion to fund programs meant to ensuring food security and stable prices amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
“We respectfully request for a supplemental budget in the amount of PHP1 billion to support the Department of Agriculture’s programs in the next two months in connection with Covid-19, particularly in ensuring food supply availability and price stabilization,” Dar said in the letter.
He said the agency needed more funds to sustain their implementation, especially in areas where the enhanced community quarantine is strictly enforced.
Dar also requested for a PHP31-billion supplemental budget to finance a food security program, dubbed as “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Kontra sa Covid-19.”
“With this pandemic, there is tightening of global food supply and we know that when there is not enough food, disorder is probable. While improving our food adequacy level, we should aim for food security. If no action is done, the threat of hunger is as real as the threat of the virus,” he said.
Of the requested amount, PHP8.5 billion will be used for the rice resiliency project; PHP7 billion for palay procurement fund of the National Food Authority; and PHP3 billion for the expanded SURE Aid and recovery project.
The DA also plans to allocate funds for the following:
–PHP3 billion – expanded agriculture insurance project;
–PHP3 billion – social amelioration for farmers and farm workers;
–PHP1 billion – upscaling of KADIWA ni Ani at Kita;
–PHP1 billion – integrated livestock and corn resiliency project;
–PHP1 billion – expanded small ruminants and poultry project;
–PHP1 billion – coconut-based diversification project;
–PHP1 billion – fisheries resiliency project;
–PHP1 billion – revitalized gulayan project;
–PHP500 million – urban agriculture project;
–PHP500 million – acquisition of protective personal equipment;
–PHP300 million – corn for food project; and
–PHP200 million – information, education and communications project.
Nograles, meanwhile, reminded law enforcers to ensure the unhampered movement of cargoes and workers from permitted establishments such as agriculture and food products, and their supply chain.
The PITC, an attached corporation of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), provides procurement, countertrade, customs bonded warehouse, exports and special trading/imports services. (PNA)