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Acting NEDA secretary Karl Kendrick Chua | Photo from Chua’s official Facebook page

The need for cold chain logistics was emphasized by Acting Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua to prolong shelf life of agricultural food products and ensure commercial viability of fresh and healthy produce.

“We must emphasize and promote the commercial viability of making healthy, safe, nutritious, medicinal or therapeutic, and well-packaged agricultural food products. The shift in consumer preference for healthier diets will increase the demand for processed agri-food products with longer shelf life and improved nutritional content. This is especially needed during this time when good health is of the highest importance,” Chua, also the Director General of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said in a statement.

A report titled “We Recover as One”, the Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases Technical Working Group for Anticipatory and Forward Planning (TWG AFP), spearheaded by NEDA, recommends increased investments in warehouses, cold storage facilities, as well as paperless transaction systems.

READ: IATF TWG pushes policies to ease COVID impact, including on logistics

For the agri-fishery sector, the report said the unhampered movement of agriculture and fishery goods and services should be ensured through efficient transport and logistics systems.

This would involve construction of better road and transport infrastructure, as well as sufficient and strategically located facilities such as wholesale food terminals and trading centers, warehouses, cold storage and refrigeration facilities, mobile storage, mobile marketplaces, rolling stores, and foodbanks

The report recommends policies, strategies, and legislative actions largely based on consultations, meetings, and surveys to rebuild confidence and adjust to the “new normal” that will arise from the country’s response to the coronavirus disease pandemic.

The report will be used by various agencies in government as they rethink their priorities for the rest of 2020 and for full year 2021. It will also be used in updating the targets and strategies of the Philippine Development Plan, which will aim for a healthy and resilient Philippines.

Aside from cold chain logistics, Chua said the government needs to intensify its support for agricultural research and development programs of public research institutions and state universities and colleges.

Further, Chua said there should be strict enforcement of food safety laws, regulations, standards, and sanitation protocols to ensure the safety of agri-food products supplied in the market.

Last April 5-8, 2020, IATF AFP conducted a business assessment survey on the agriculture and fisheries sector.

The results of the survey–generated from 6,863 farmers and fisher folk–show that even though 86% were still able to continue their agricultural activities, only 65% were able to sell their produce.

This resulted in a P94.3-million loss from unsold produce, with the biggest chunk coming from CALABARZON at P26.3 million followed by Central Luzon with P24.8 million.

“Around 96 percent of the respondents in the agriculture and fisheries sector indicated that they intend to continue their agricultural activity in the next cropping season. Numerous challenges, including weaker domestic demand, highlights the need for better R&D to prevent wastage and spoilage,” Chua said.

He noted that one of the proposed legislative actions contained in the “We Recover as One” report is addressing regulatory issues to enable the national and local governments to purchase produce from Filipino farmers and fisherfolk for relief and school feeding programs.

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