MANILA – The social action arm of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Monday urged the government to provide more support to the agriculture sector amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“Thus, we at NASSA/Caritas Philippines strongly urges our government, especially the Department of Agriculture to start mobilizing farmers at the community level while we still have time,” Kidapawan Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, national director of the NASSA/Caritas Philippines, said in a statement.
Bagaforo said through intensifying support for the agriculture sector, the government will be able to ensure that no Filipino experiences hunger.
“We cannot combat the negative economic impact of Covid-19 with the social amelioration program alone, or even if we shall have the USD280 billion loan from World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. Our food industry needs to be supported most importantly by our agriculture sector,” he added.
He said giving much-needed support to the agriculture sector would be able to produce food for the Filipinos.
“The present crisis brought by Covid-19 compels us to ensure that each Filipino family is secured with ample supply of basic food requirement and this can only be provided if the agriculture sector is given priority. It’s about time we strengthen our programs on food security, providing the needed support to farmers and fisherfolk who remain until this time, the poorest sector in the country,” he added.
He also cited the group’s several programs on sustainable agriculture in the different parts of the country.
“Our community farms are helping deliver fresh vegetables to families severely affected by work suspension in Iligan, Bayombong and Camarines Sur, while a local farmers’ cooperative supported by the diocese of Libmanan in Camarines Norte and the Gratia Plena program of the Diocese of San Jose in Nueva Ecija are supplying thousands of sacks of commercial and organic rice to Luzon provinces,” he said.
For instance, he said the Caritas Kindness Store in San Carlos is providing opportunity to local farmers to sell their harvests at fair prices without interference from middle traders, while sustaining its Community Caritas Kindness Stations with the local supply of vegetables and crops.
He also cited the group’s backyard gardening programs in Iloilo, Bukidnon, Quezon, Leyte, Samar provinces, Capiz, Oriental Mindoro and Zambales have ensured food security at the household level, while providing additional stable income to farming families.
“The seedlings distribution being conducted simultaneously to providing food relief in the Archdiocese of Cebu also strengthens the call for food production at household level.”
As of April 26, the group has already provided assistance worth PHP1.4 billion to more than 4 million families across the country.
Last week, the Department of Agriculture (DA) assured the public that the country has adequate supplies of food, including rice, until June amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.
During a virtual presser of the Food Security Task Force, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the country has rice stocks sufficient to last for 84 days.
He noted that the projected ending stock in June 2020 is good for 111 days for chicken, 12 days for fish, and eight days for pork.
The supply outlook for other crops, on the other hand, is seen to last until 147 days for corn, 28 days for vegetables, and 21 days for garlic and onion.
Dar said aside from ensuring food sufficiency during the Covid-19 emergency, the DA would also provide adequate support to boost local food production. (PNA)