Producers call for free movement of food amid lockdowns

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Collaboration between the government through the Department of Agriculture (DA) and producers would ensure the smooth transportation of perishable food products to Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

The call was made in view of travel restrictions imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) in its Resolution No. 104, where only essential travel into and out of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, and the National Capital Region (NCR) will be allowed due to the surge of coronavirus disease 2019 (CoVid-19) cases.

Food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan, in a virtual presser on Monday, said the delays and failures in delivering produce to key population centers like Metro Manila were attributed to the disrupted supply chain caused by stricter quarantine rules.

“Fish and vegetables were spoiled while live hogs and cattle became emaciated as checkpoints and other quarantine protocols affected the free flow of goods,” Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Atty. Asis Perez said.

Barring logistical delays, he said enough fish is available in the coming months especially since the three-month closed fishing seasons in the country’s major fishing grounds have been lifted.

In fact, the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) reported that 9,506.81 metric tons (MT) have been unloaded from March 1 to 15, of which 5,743.44 MT were marine commodities, 1,480.88 MT were from aquaculture, and 2,282.49 MT were frozen fish products.

“We have enough fish. Producers simply need to ensure that commodities from farms will reach consumers. We can ensure that produce will reach consumers especially those under stricter quarantine rules if the food pass system from last year will be implemented more efficiently and effectively,” Perez said.

At present, he said the group supplies aquaculture and fish species to the DA Kadiwa centers.

The group said it is aware of ongoing initiatives by the DA to use and deploy refrigerated vans for its Kadiwa stores. The same vehicles can be used to deliver fresh produce from areas where they are abundant to localities where food is needed.

“This is much better than resorting to importation,” it said.

Tugon Kabuhayan is also urging local governments to use fresh vegetables and fish instead of mainly canned goods whenever food supplies are provided in areas under lockdown.

“This is a win-win situation since those under localized lockdown will have access to fresh food while farmers, fisherfolk and fish growers can sell their produce,” Perez said.

For her part, DA Undersecretary for Fisheries and Agri-Industrialization Cheryl Caballero urged consumers to think of it as another motivation to keep themselves healthier by looking at fish as their alternate sources of protein.

“Fish are also a more affordable option these days with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (BFAR) recent lifting of the three-month closed fishing seasons in the country’s major fishing grounds,” she said in an interview.

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