The Department of Agriculture through the National Food Authority (NFA) has assured us that there is sufficient supply of rice during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) period due to COVID-19. “Sapat po ang ating supply ng bigas para sa Metro Manila at sa buong bansa. Nitong buwan ng Marso, mayroon po tayong rice inventory good for 75 days,” said agriculture secretary William Dar during a visit, at the NFA North District Office in Valenzuela City, on March 26. He said the country has a total rice inventory of 2.661 million MT, inclusive of commercial, household and government stocks, equivalent to 75 days’ requirement.

According to Administrator Judy Carol Dansal, our rice stocks include those bought from farmers during the last quarter of 2019. Dansal further explained that NFA continues to buy palay from farmers for buffer stocking. “We are proposing to augment the NFA’s palay procurement fund by an addition of P7 billion, as part of our proposed P31-billion food resiliency program, dubbed as Ahon Lahat, Pagkain Sapat or ALPAS Kontra COVID-19, which we also call ‘Plant, Plant, Plant Program or Agri 4Ps,’” secretary Dar said.

The NFA rice is sold at P25 per kilogram to accredited retailers, institutions, LGUs and government agencies. “Currently, our priority is to serve the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the LGUs so they could include in food packs for their respective distribution,” Secretary Dar said. “In all, we have enough food for the next two months and we are enhancing other measures to ensure food security until the end of the year.”

The Secretary added that a strong cooperation of all provincial governors, city and municipal mayors, and barangay leaders is needed in ensuring the unhampered movement of agricultural products and farm and fishery inputs, and exempting farmers, fishers, and workers in the entire food value chain and logistics from curfew. “We encourage our farmers and fishers to continue their farming and fishing activities, while observing social distancing measures, and remaining healthy and physically fit,” he said.

He also urged them to report any problems regarding their free movement and transport of products to the markets, so these could be immediately addressed by concerned LGUs, the PNP and AFP, who man the ECQ checkpoints.