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Threat of hunger as real as COVID-19, says Agri chief


Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Thursday said a tighter rice supply is at hand as exporting countries are seen to hold shipments of the staple to ensure food security amid the prevailing COVID-19 situation.

“The possibility of a tightened global supply is always present, as traditional rice exporting countries are expected to favor securing stocks for their own people, amid increased demand and heightened restrictions in global trade and travel,” Dar said in a statement.

This after Vietnam, the world’s largest rice exporter, decided to halt new rice export contracts to ensure food the country’s food security.

“Again, we wish to emphasize that the threat of hunger is as real as the threat of COVID-19,” Dar said.

“Hence, the government is giving equal priority and attention to continuously expand local food production to avoid potential shortage,” the Agriculture chief said.

The Department of Agriculture, the Cabinet official noted, is encouraging big agribusiness companies and consolidators to directly engage in “cluster farming” in partnerships with organized farmers’ and fishers’ groups.

The move is to help widen people’s access to food.

Dar said that so far rice supply is enough for the lean months.

“In particular, by the end of the first semester, our rice inventory is good for 67 days,” he said.

The DA will pursue the same level of adequacy for the other major agricultural and fishery commodities.

“We are also exploring all strategies to see to it that we sustain food security by attaining higher levels of food adequacy, particularly through the implementation of measures to surmount this challenging time in our history,” Dar said.

“Further, we are set to carry out these strategies to increase national agri-fishery output through expansion of areas to be covered by government programs and the use of advanced and relevant technologies to increase levels of productivity across all commodities,” he added.

The DA has requested for a P31-billion supplemental budget to finance immediate interventions for food production and availability given the spread of the COVID-19. 

This is on top of the P1-billion it has requested to also finance programs connected in ensuring food security and stable prices

“In all, we call for stronger and sustained collaboration with all agri-fishery industry stakeholders, the LGUs, farmers’ and fishers’ groups, the academe, and the private sector,” Dar said. — RSJ, GMA News

“Together, we can hurdle this enormous global challenge,” he said.