Zubiri calls on DA, DTI to support agri sector amid pandemic
MANILA, Philippines — Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri is urging the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry to provide strong support for the agricultural sector as it tries to recover from losses incurred during the several stages of community quarantines prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In these times, we should be buying Filipino — rice, livestock, local produce, sugar, and so on. The basic rule in food security is to protect the most vulnerable, and that means protecting not only our consumers but also our producers,” Zubiri said in a recent statement.
“The problem is that this basic rule gets derailed by trade practices that at times favor importation to the detriment of local producers,” he added. “It boggles the mind, that we are still importing when our local producers are suffering from a lack of market. Our farmers are still trying to recoup from losing bulk buyers like restaurants, hotels, and resorts.”
Zubiri acknowledged “buy local” campaigns initiated by the DTI, such as Go Lokal! and PinasMunaTayo.
“These are wonderful initiatives, except for the glaring absence of the agricultural sector. I hope that the DA can push for our local producers to be included in these campaigns. They need these platforms as much as any other industry,”
Besides restricting imports, the DA and DTI should also give logistical support to farmers — particulalry transportation, he said.
“ The community quarantines have really hindered transportation, which has negatively affected the movement of produce,” he said. “Our agricultural provinces are accumulating so much excess produce that’s being left to rot.”
“It’s a waste. We could send that to places where it’s needed,” he added in Filipino.
Another form of logistical support is to provide farmers with processing machines so that they could maximize their produce.
“The surplus of tomatoes up in the Cordilleras, for instance — this could be made into tomato paste or sun-dried tomatoes. We have to help our farmers find solutions. They have no income. They have limited mobility. It’s on the national government to coordinate with LGUs and figure out what to do,” he said.
“If we leave our farmers on their own, many of them will likely stop farming altogether. That’ll lead to skyrocketing food prices in the future. We cannot let that happen,” he added.
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