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Don’t panic as food supply is enough, says Agri chief

Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Friday assured the public that there is enough supply of food for residents in Metro Manila after the Philippine government restricted travel to and from the capital region to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID19).

Dar said the current rice inventory at various National Food Authority (NFA) warehouses nationwide is good for at least 80 days.

“This will be further augmented by the current harvest this dry season, providing additional stocks for another two to three months,” he said.

“Together with the rice stocks held by the private sector and households, we will have a 35-week rice supply, which means this is good for at least nine months,” he added.

With this, Dar said there is enough food supply and people should not engage in panic-buying amid the one-month “community quarantine” in Metro Manila.

“Despite this community quarantine, there’s no need to really hoard. I mean, buy[ing] too much. Because that would disrupt the normal marketing process. Let’s buy what is needed. Goods, say for three to four days, but not two weeks or more. There is enough food supply,” Dar said.

On Thursday night, President Rodrigo Duterte addressed the nation that the Philippine government is restricting travel to and from Metro Manila starting March 15 until April 14 in as party of community quarantine in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The Philippines has raised Code Red Sub-Level 2 over the COVID-19 threat.

“As the country confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, we at the Department of Agriculture will make sure the sufficient and continuous supply of basic food commodities will be available in the public markets for the benefit of all family households, particularly depressed communities,” Dar said.

Demand for vegetables and root crops per week in Metro Manila is 5,000 metric tons. Dar said the supply committed by farmers in the Cordillera region is 17,000 metric tons.

As for poultry and meat, weekly demand in Metro Manila is 7,934 metric tons while the available supply is 11,074 per week. Weekly fish requirement in Metro Manila is 8,000 metric tons while the supply is 10,264 metric tons.

Weekly demand for eggs in Metro Manila is 25 million pieces while supply is 42.5 million. Weekly requirement for sugar in Metro Manila is 5,250 kilograms while the supply is more than 1 million metric tons.

“The distribution, the marketing of food products in Metro Manila continues as being supplied by farmers, farmer association and cooperatives and provinces in the surrounding regions,” Dar said.

“We are proactively engaging them na huwag i-disrupt yung supply. At nakikiusap kami sa lahat ng traders na wag magsamantala at this point in time,” he added.

To further ensure availability of affordable food and other basic commodities, the DA has gathered initial commitments from the private sector and its regional offices to sufficiently supply the needs of 13.9 million residents in Metro Manila, according to the Agriculture chief.

“Other than rice, other basic food items include pork, chicken, eggs, other poultry products, fish, vegetables, fruits, sugar, and cooking oil,” Dar said.

The DA’s plan includes the strategic positioning and efficient distribution of basic food commodities, including the suggested retail prices, he said.

“The food resiliency action plan will be further expanded in partnership with the private industry, local government units, farmers’ and fisher’s groups,” Dar said.

The Agriculture chief said this is an opportune time for Metro Manila residents to consider engaging in food production via urban gardening or aquaculture in backyard , verandas, roof tops, and designated ares in the community. — RSJ, GMA News