“Impact of COVID-19 on the food supply chain.”
More than a year now, several countries,including the Philippines are still combatting the “devastating” effect of Covid-19 pandemic –addressing health problems , roll-out of vaccines, and the negative impact to local economy.
Pandemic is not a new event. mankind has faced various pandemics in history-the world survived. Under state of health emergency, current experiences in COVID-19, resulted in the restrictions in the movement of workers, operations of several food production facilities have scaled down if not it brought to closure – thousands became jobless and perseverance became the order each passing day.
Filipinos’ true bayanihan spirit was demonstrated-in sight of hope. The pandemic put financial pressures in the food supply chain and changes in demand of consumers.
Trade policies shifted drastically compounded by transportation woes –strict border controls. The implementation of measures caused the closure of workplaces and educational institutions, and temporary restrictions in travels and social meetings.
Flexible working from home and online meetings have become standard practices. People who work in the food industry do not have work from home option , thus, food supply chain became an issue driving a great concern about food production, processing, distribution, and demand.
The supply chain affects not only producers, distributors, and consumers, but also food processing plants that are labor intensive. To date, despite the large spread of the pandemic, there is no report that COVID-19 has been transmitted through food consumption.
Combatting the pandemic. “The call of the times are efficient and resilient food production and distribution systems that will allow us to feed our growing population, now and in the future,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar stated in one of his national food dialogues. Food is a basic necessity Strong and flexible food supply chains is critical.
It can respond to shifts in consumer demand and adjust in response to supply constraints arising from measures implemented on COVID-19.
Cordillera region supplies around 70-80 % of highland vegetable requirements of the National Capital Region (NCR) other neighboring provinces, and some parts of the Visayas islands.
Here is the Food Resiliency Report (as Aug 25,2021) of the DA-CAR: Trading- Temperate Vegetables 1.Regular Trading : Grand total volume of traded of vegetables (since Jan 2021) was posted at 348,156 metric tons (MT); 177,261 MT for NCR while 170,895 MT to other provinces.
In value (grand total) was pegged at more than P14.418B ; P7.290B to other provinces while P7.214B in NCR 2. Through Kadiwa (the program first started by the late strong Marcos in the 70s) in Metro Manila pegged at P1,625,528 (25.075 MT)
On Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita Markets, total sales generated amounted to P49,564,935 ; sold agriproduce posted at 931.508 MT. The agency assisted hundreds of farmers groups and dozens buyers.
“Notwithstanding the enforcement of community quarantines starting in mid-March (2020), major highland produced, the pandemic had not affected the production of highland vegetables,” stated by Cameron Odsey, OIC Regional Director of the Department of Agriculture-–Cordillera Administrative Region (DA-CAR), on RED’s Corner in Agri Cordillera, an official publication of the agency.
Aid Social Amelioration Programs, close to 9,460 farmers have benefitted for a total of P47.300 million in cash/food subsidy. On Survival and Recovery Loan Program (SURE COVID-19), the agency released a total of P239.825 million (first batch) and P24.650 million (second batch) for a total of 10,579 farmer-recipients.
A total P127.935 million loan amount released to 25,587 farmers on its rice farmers financial assistance program (TERMINAL). On rice resiliency project (RRP), the has agency reported that some 36,341 farmer beneficiaries were assisted, covering 39,222.91 hectares.
About provisions of agricultural inputs, the agency provided 5,368.735 kilos of feeds ; 293 heads of livestock; 1,380 poultry heads that benefitted 43,385 individuals.
Baguio City (as pilot area)—some 15,491 individual beneficiaries were assisted aside from the 1,625 groups and thousands of different varieties of vegetable and fruit plants which were distributed.
Animal Swine Fever (ASF), about 500 recipients were indemnified and received a total of P15.010 million worth of financial assistance was provided by the agency. Thirty-eight areas across the region were infected with 12 protected zones, and identified 27 areas as buffer zones. On fall armyworm (FAW) infestation, some 1,650 hectares of farm lands were treated while 4,701 ha. are being monitored.
Meeting Supply & Demand
“The greatest challenge, however, was the decreased demand of vegetables as a result of community restrictions,” Odsey emphasized. “Big buyers of vegetables such as hotels and restaurants were closed or partially operational and therefore buying fewer volumes.”
“As a result of the pandemic, several opportunities arose favoring vegetable farmers. Alternative markets and marketing arrangements have cropped up outside the usual flow from the trading centers to the main markets in Divisoria and Balintawak onwards to the secondary markets then to the consumers,” Odsey added.
The DA official pointed further that “ DA Kadiwa ni Ani Program has developed several direct marketing linkages between farmers’ cooperatives and associations (FCAs) avoiding layers of middlemen.” “Online marketing has also been developed by enterprising entrepreneurs, Odsey emphasized.
Packaging and processing of vegetables for special markets is now a significant product outlet.
Unhampered flow of food
Odsey recommended—strict implementation of the national directive ensuring an unhampered flow of food, food-related products, and materials, including machinery and equipment during the pandemic and similar emergency situations and providing for penalties for violations. Minimizing constraints to production and marketing of vegetables will go a long way in helping farmers recover from the losses even as they continue to sustain food production and ensure the efficient supply of food.