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DA to open more food outlets

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is seeking an additional funding of at least P1 billion to ease the public’s unfounded fears over food supply by opening more Kadiwa outlets in Metro Manila and boosting farmer support in the form of seeds and other inputs.

At the same time, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has finally allowed all kinds of cargo, including nonessentials, to get past quarantine checkpoints in Luzon to stop panic buying by overly alarmed Filipinos.

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“The best way to sustain stable prices of basic farm and fishery commodities is to have a continuous and unhampered movement of goods from origin to the markets, [especially] in Metro Manila and other metropolises,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement.

Dar said he would use P325 million of the P1-billion supplemental budget to upscale its “Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita” program, a marketing system that directly brings agricultural goods to major consumption areas at reasonable prices.

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New paradigm

It was originally a Marcos-era concept that Dar revived in September last year under his “New Thinking” paradigm in agriculture.

“While the DA support systems are already in place … we need additional funds to sustain their implementation, especially in areas where the enhanced community quarantine is strictly enforced,” Dar said, stressing the need for proactive measures to ease public fears.

Dar said P250 million of the requested budget would be allocated to boost vegetable gardens that were set up in Metro Manila last year, some of which are already productive.

In addition to activities in urban centers, the DA also allotted P200 million to boost farmers’ production in the form of seeds and inputs and P150 million for medical assistance, biosecurity measures and other means of financial assistance to agriculture front liners.

The agency also aims to strengthen its price monitoring and enforcement by pouring P75 million to its teams that are tasked to go around public markets, especially during the monthlong Luzon lockdown.

Thus far, the DA has issued about 5,000 food passes to truckers, suppliers, traders and logistics firms to ensure the unhampered delivery of food during the quarantine and urged local governments to allow employees in the food industry to go to work to avoid breaks in the food supply chain.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez also stressed the importance of avoiding breaks in the supply chain after meat processors complained that quarantine checkpoints prevented the delivery of vital production inputs, like tin cans and brand labeling materials.

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On March 20, the Philippine Association of Meat Processors Inc. warned of a shortage of canned goods in April because their raw materials were barred passage at checkpoints.

All cargoes now allowed

“What’s hindering the manufacturing operations now is the packaging materials. The local government units manning the checkpoints don’t recognize the tin can, the label, and the flexible film as inputs to food production,” said Rex Agarrado, the association’s spokesperson, in a phone interview on Friday night.

It turned out that well-meaning policemen and soldiers manning checkpoints did not have a list that would show how even the smallest part of the supply chain may be critical for an essential business, like food production.

“So that there won’t be discretion and decision making in checkpoints that will result in different treatments. So all cargoes are [now] allowed,” Lopez said in a Viber message on Saturday.

The DTI had released two circulars on March 19 and 20 ensuring the unhampered movement of cargo, but it was not clear if this referred only to essential cargo. When asked for clarification, Lopez said on Thursday that this only applies to cargoes related to exempted businesses, such as food and drug stores.INQ

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