The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is urging the government to strengthen agricultural research and development (R&D) programs in public research institutions as well as state universities and colleges to improve food security.

NEDA Acting Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua emphasizes the role of strict enforcement of food safety laws, regulations, standards, and sanitation protocols in ensuring the steady supply of agri-food products in the market.

“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,” says Chua, recommending that cold chain logistics extend the shelf life of food, particularly raw and processed products. 

A business assessment survey conducted by the NEDA-led Inter-Agency Task Force Technical Working Group for Anticipatory and Forward Planning in April showed that while 86 percent of 6,836 farmers and fisherfolk are able to continue agricultural activities amid the pandemic, only 65 percent were able to sell their produce.

An estimated P93.4 million worth of losses stemmed from unsold agricultural products, majority of which came from Region IV-A with a loss of P26.3 million followed by Central Luzon with P24.8 million in losses.

“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,” says Chua, noting that one of the proposed legislative actions in the We Recover as One report is to address regulatory issues in the direct purchase of produce from Filipino farmers and fisherfolk for relief and school feeding programs.