April 16, 2020
Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) | https://bit.ly/2VyxBUE
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture is appealing to Bukidnon to allow continued food production after the province was placed under total lockdown.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar appealed anew to local government units to reconsider policies in ensuring continued operations related to food production, processing, transport and trade in a bid to prevent supply disruptions and price spikes.
Dar appealed to Bukidnon Gov. Jose Maria Zubiri who placed the entire province under total lockdown following its first positive coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 case.
Bukidnon imposed a strict home quarantine for all residents and allowed essential establishments to operate under strict safety precautions.
Two major sugar mills, Crystal Sugar Co. Inc. and Bukidnon Sugar Milling Co., have shut down operations as a result of the directive.
Combined, the mills produce 82 percent of Mindanao’s total sugar output and 16 percent of the country’s total production.
Banana and pineapple plantations were also barred from operating during the two-week lockdown.
Dar said such restrictive policy would only result in artificial shortage and price spikes.
“Subsequently, disruption in the operations will have a negative impact on the supply chain and will ultimately result in the financial dislocation of thousands of their employees,” Dar said.
Currently, there are about 19,000 employees who work at the two sugar mills and several banana and pineapple companies in Bukidnon.
Dar also urged provincial governors, city and municipal mayors in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao to allow their respective farmers, fishers, and workers in food processing and manufacturing facilities to continue to do their jobs, provided they strictly observe physical distancing, health and sanitation measures.
“We appeal for deeper understanding of the importance of the unhampered movement of food and agricultural workers in minimizing the economic impact of the COVID pandemic,” he said.