The Department of Agriculture (DA) is expanding its services through online-driven platforms to address the new landscape for buying and selling agricultural products.
The agency has pushed new programs such as e-Agriculture and e-Kadiwa to bring farmers and fishers’ produce to more consumers as the new coronavirus pandemic has dragged down their income.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said in a webinar hosted by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) that the movement and delivery of goods would now be steered by technology.
For instance, the Kadiwa Express will use cloud and other information systems in tracking goods—possibly including RFID (radio frequency identification)—to monitor the produce while in transit and to determine where the blockade in transport is happening.
The e-Kadiwa will also allow consumers to order items online and be delivered by partner apps such as Grab.
“Because of COVID-19, food affordability, not only availability, becomes critical. The threat [of food affordability] is as real as hunger itself. If the supply chain is disrupted, food produced in rural areas just goes to waste,” he said.
“Price stability, price affordability, is key to growing the economy. We need to promote digitalization of agriculture even in marketing,” he added.
Searca director Glenn Gregorio said the global pandemic had opened opportunities for urban agriculture, adding that “consumers now appreciate the connection between the quality of food on their table and agriculture.”
As such, the organization has also facilitated the distribution of high-quality seeds with the Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).
The quality of seeds, Gregorio said, is the foundation of good soil cultivation and farming.
BPI Assistant Director Glenn Panganiban said that since the pandemic, their office had been flooded with calls from people requesting seeds and inquiring about urban farming.
Dar said the government was considering 10 to 15 percent of the Metro Manila area for urban farming to beef up the region’s food security level. The agency has so far partnered with the local government units (LGUs) of Quezon City and Manila, but is looking to forge more links with other LGUs.
The DA earlier said it was seeking an additional funding of at least P1 billion to ease the public’s unfounded fears over food supply by opening more Kadiwa outlets in Metro Manila and boosting farmer support in the form of seeds and other inputs.
“The best way to sustain stable prices of basic farm and fishery commodities is to have a continuous and unhampered movement of goods from origin to the markets, [especially] in Metro Manila and other metropolises,” Dar said.
Dar said he would use P325 million of the P1-billion supplemental budget to upscale its “Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita” program, a marketing system that directly brings agricultural goods to major consumption areas at reasonable prices.
It was originally a Marcos-era concept that Dar revived in September last year under his “New Thinking” paradigm in agriculture.
“While the DA support systems are already in place … we need additional funds to sustain their implementation, especially in areas where the enhanced community quarantine is strictly enforced,” Dar said, stressing the need for proactive measures to ease public fears.
Dar said P250 million of the requested budget would be allocated to boost vegetable gardens that were set up in Metro Manila last year, some of which were already productive.
In addition to activities in urban centers, the DA also allotted P200 million to boost farmers’ production in the form of seeds and inputs and P150 million for medical assistance, biosecurity measures and other means of financial assistance to agriculture front-liners. INQ
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