DA establishes food management strategies

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is pushing for local food stewardship measures as the agency predicts new choke points in the global food supply chain, putting upward pressure on the costs of food production that can lead to higher commodity prices.

“This year, the agricultural sector will face global challenges, such as fertilizer stockpiling by other countries and rising fuel prices. Our country will have to deal with rising consumer prices, as the rest of the world does, even the developed countries. Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a statement Saturday.

This, due to the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic which has already strongly affected the agricultural and fisheries sector of the country. Thus, balanced measures to ensure food affordability for consumers is then all the more urgent, Dar said.

Global food prices have reached record highs during the pandemic, with the United Nations index showing a 28% increase, from cereals to meat, over the past two years. Record levels of food inflation were last seen in 2011.

Labor shortages in transport and high freight costs have further tied down goods, especially during the recent outbreaks of Covid-19 infections in most countries. Rising vaccination mandates among the world’s largest economic players are also seen as compounding labor mobility issues. Already, talk of mandatory vaccinations has sparked political unrest in some countries.

In 2021, agriculture in the Philippines suffered at the hands of typhoons, with Typhoon Odette in the fourth quarter being the most destructive. African swine fever remains an enigma with no commercial vaccine in sight. The disease has stunted the growth of the livestock sub-sector by a minimum of 16 percent.

Such destructive forces, analysts say, will likely force total agricultural production to contract in 2021 and away from its original 2% growth target.

To address this, Dar issued a directive to regional DA offices to maintain food mobilization from surplus provinces to major metropolitan markets.

“We are improving production in areas and provinces around Metro Manila, such as central Luzon, and creating a quadrant of food baskets around the NCR (National Capital Region). Our regional field units have been tasked with empowering farmer cooperatives and associations to directly export their surplus fruits and vegetables to metropolitan areas,” he said.

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