MANILA – The Philippines will have sufficient supply of rice for 84 days despite the crisis brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic, a Palace official said on Friday.

Malacañang gave the assurance amid the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in the entire Luzon and some parts of Visayas and Mindanao.

Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, citing the report from the Department of Agriculture (DA), said the country’s rice stocks would last for 84 days by the end of June.

“We would like to assure the public that the government continues to work to ensure that supplies of produce and food essentials remain stable during the Enhanced Community Quarantine,” Nograles, also spokesperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), said in a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4.

In a statement issued Thursday, Agriculture Secretary William Dar attributed the projected volume to the yield increment from the implementation of DA’s Plant, Plant, Plant Program, otherwise known as the Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Kontra Covid-19.

Dar said there would be adequate rice supply for the entire year due to the expected harvest from the main wet season crop and import arrivals based on the issued sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances (SPSICs).

He noted that there would be a total rice supply of 18 million metric tons (MMT) of rice by the end of 2020, which is 18 percent more than this year’s demand of 14.67 MMT on rice.

“At a conservative assumption of 70-percent adoption rate of the Plant, Plant, Plant Program interventions on rice, we can produce an additional 1.3 MMT. Add that to our projected local production and imports with SPSICs of 1.86 MMT, we will have a year-end stock good for more than three months,” Dar said.

To ensure continued access to affordable rice, Nograles said the DA had likewise directed the National Food Authority to buy palay (unhusked rice) at PHP21 to beef up its 30-day buffer stock.

The IATF-EID has already approved the PHP8.5-billion fund for the Rice Resiliency Project (RRP) under the ALPAS Kontra-Covid-19.

RRP seeks to boost the production of palay by the end of 2020 to 22.12 MMT, which is equivalent to 13.41 MMT of milled rice.

Nograles said the DA extended the validity of 91,274 good passes distributed to food truckers and suppliers.

“Sinisugurado pa ng gobyerno na hindi tayo mauubusan ng pagkain at bigas sa gitna ng ECQ (The government is maki sure that our food and rice supplies will not be depleted during the ECQ period),” he said.

The ECQ in Luzon is expected to lapse on April 30. (PNA)

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