The ongoing Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), and lockdown drills in some areas, has disrupted the normal flow and trading of vegetable produce from the Cordillera to their usual market destinations in the country.
Under the ECQ situation, trucks delivering food products are held up in border checkpoints. For instance, in Masbate, perishable vegetable products from the Cordillera were held up for 12 hours until after a knowledgeable official from the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) intervened and advised those at the ECQ border checkpoints to let food products flow unhampered.
Immediately after the declaration of the ECQ by President Rodrigo Duterte, DA Secretary William Dar appealed to all partners in the agriculture sector and responsible officials to keep food products, supplies and inputs flowing unimpeded. He has met with the Cabinet officials concerned and through the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), issued appropriate memorandums and circulars to ensure and facilitate the implementation of the directives.
In support to Secretary Dar’s appeal to ensure the availability and affordability of food, the DA-CAR coordinated with farmers and truckers and suppliers (viajeros) to continue supplying highland vegetables to Metro Manila and other regions in Luzon and Visayas. They were given food passes that enables them to be prioritized in the designated Cargo Lanes of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in quarantine checkpoints.
The DA food pass allow the transport of agriculture and fisheries inputs and food products through all forms of conveyances and modes to their destinations.
From the daily monitoring of “vegetable in-flow and out-flow” from various trading posts in La Trinidad, Benguet by the DA-CAR, from March 18-24, an average of 396 farmers deliver their produce to buyers who eventually transport these to the various markets in the lowlands.
Since March 18, even under an ECQ situation, the farmers were able to deliver an estimated 8,911.834 metric tons (MT) of assorted highland vegetables such as cabbage, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, potato, carrots, chayote, raddish, cucumber, and lettuce.
Of the total volume delivered, a daily average of 81.8% or 8,180MT is bought by traders and suppliers which they bring to various destinations particularly in the National Capital Region and other urban areas.
The produce not traded on the day of delivery were added to the next day’s trading volume.
An average of 80 truckers or traders, on a daily basis, buy highland vegetables and transport these to their territories.
The DA-CAR continues to assist the farmers, farm workers and all agricultural workers by facilitating the issuance of food passes to all eligible suppliers and truckers.
This is especially important considering that the Food Resiliency Protocol now covers not only Luzon but the entire country after it was placed under a State of Calamity.
On the other hand, OIC-Regional Executive Director Cameron P. Odsey said that the DA-CAR is also collaborating with the City of Baguio and the Department of Trade Industry (DTI) for the conduct of Rolling Stores will start this April in the City. The collaboration is seen to be helpful especially to the farmers to find alternative market for their produce given the abnormal situation at present.
Copies of the DA Memorandum Circulars emphasizing the unhampered movement of all cargoes, agriculture and fishery inputs, food products and agribusiness personnel nationwide were already circulated to various agencies and LGUs such as the DILG, PNP, local chief executives, and local agriculture offices for proper guidance and implementation.//Janice B. Agrifino (DA-CAR-RAFIS)