September 23, 2023

Not all “positive results” of the Covid-19 are scary, as one thing this pandemic may let happen is the sustained linkage between farmers and consumers, something that the relief operation efforts during this crisis and bringing local government units and the private sector into the farm-to-market equation have proven possible.

A welcome development in downloading assistance programs to the communities crippled by the lockdown due to the pandemic is the inclusion of fresh produce, livestock even, in the packages of relief goods distributed by LGUs and private institutions, which has enabled families to have home-cooked, healthier meals aside from traditional ready to eat and canned food items even when they could not go to the market.

The unique situation created by the Covid-19 also put into action the idea that LGUs are an effective conduit between farmers’ produce and the market, and the practice may be continued beyond the pandemic and other emergency situations like typhoons when government has to send food packs to affected communities.

“We have encouraged our LGUs providing relief goods to their constituents to procure locally, and all of them have done that. We also assisted a number of non-government organizations and a party-list group that allowed them to transact directly with farmer groups, resulting in the purchase of tons of highland vegetables either for relief goods or for sale in other areas,” DA-Cordillera Executive Director Cameron P. Odsey said in a press conference June 4.

The idea now is to make such setup sustainable by giving barangays seed funds to buy products directly from the farmers through the DA and sell it to their constituents.

Through farmer cooperatives in the region, vegetables can also be sold to LGUs in other areas, such as Metro Manila, which sources 80 percent of its demand for highland crops in Benguet.

“That will help the farmers in marketing their produce. Sa ngayon, nagawa ito pang-relief operations, but what if kapag wala na ang Covid? Meron pa rin ang mga consumersna nangangailangan ng gulay so ito ang planong gawin ngayon para continuous na ang process, it will now become sustainable,” Odsey said.

Last month the DA central office has asked for a P66-million stimulus package seen to help the agriculture sector recover from the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. The stimulus package will support the Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Kontra saCovide-19 program, food logistics and food market interventions, and the Cash for Work Program in Agriculture.

Odsey said they seek to have a part of the stimulus package used for the seed budget for the barangays.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development, which is in the forefront of relief operations and provision of assistance to poor communities and individuals in crisis situations, has programs that encourage local farmers to participate in the procurement process of farm products.

DSWD-Cordillera Director Leo Quintilla said one of which is the supplementary feeding program focused on providing meals to children in day care centers where vegetables are needed ingredients.

In the meantime, the DSWD’s regional resource and training center does not yet have storage facilities for fresh produce, which is keeping them from including farm goods in relief packs. The agency considers more feasible stock piling goods that will last up to six months and ready for downloading during typhoons and other calamities.

“Ang kailangan natin ay mga canned goods and ready to eat foods. We will be requiring the help of the Department of Science and Technology on the preservation (of other supplies such as farm products),” he said. – Hanna C. Lacsamana