New quarantine raises old fears about flow of farm goods

PHILIPPINE STAR/ BOY SANTOS

THE PROSPECT of a stricter quarantine has raised fears of disruption to the flow of food from producers to markets, as occurred early on in the pandemic.

At a virtual briefing Monday, food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan said the early days of the pandemic restricted the movement of farm produce, causing surpluses to pile up and spoil in producer provinces.

Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis G. Perez said: “The call is in view of travel restrictions imposed by Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases Resolution No. 104 where only essential travel into and out of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and National Capital Region will be allowed due to the surge of active coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.”

Mr. Perez, a former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources director, said the failure to access markets resulted in food waste and lost income, with some unsold vegetables donated or used as feed for farm animals.

“Fish and vegetables spoiled while live hogs and cattle became emaciated as checkpoints and other quarantine protocols affected the free flow of goods,” Mr. Perez said.

Mr. Perez proposed that local government units (LGUs) distribute farm produce to areas observing localized lockdown, instead of canned products.

He said such practices will provide farmers a market for their products, while giving people affected by the lockdown access to healthy food.

“Also, the procurement of farm produce by LGUs can compensate for the decline in consumption due to the closure of dine-in restaurants as a result of the stricter quarantine protocols,” Mr. Perez said.

“It should be cleared with (local government units) that food producers do not only transport produce via big trucks. Some small food producers use jeepneys and pick-up trucks. It should be clear that as long as the vehicle is carrying food products, it should be granted access,” Mr. Perez said.

“Producers simply need to ensure that commodities from farms reach consumers,” he added.

Asked to comment, Department of Agriculture Spokesperson Noel O. Reyes said by mobile phone Monday that the transport of agricultural commodities will remain uninterrupted despite the implementation of stricter quarantine measures.

“There will be no changes. Health protocols should be observed. If there are problems in the respective LGUs, we would like to reiterate that there is a policy from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on the unhampered movement of food and other basic commodities from the farms to the markets,” Mr. Reyes said. — Revin Mikhael D. Ochave





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