BY MARCHEL P. ESPINA
The Western Visayas Regional Recovery Program underscored job creation and economic growth sustainability amid the continuing challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Ro-Ann Bacal, director of the National Economic and Development Authority Region 6, said.
The 127-page recovery plan contained recommendations to mitigate economic losses as well as policies for socio-economic activities under the “new normal”, she said.
She added that it serves as a guide for the region as it gradually transitions from responding to the Covid-19 pandemic to recovery under the “new normal”.
Under the economic and livelihood activity, the recovery plan emphasized that agriculture and fishery sector plays a crucial role in pursuing Covid-19 pandemic recovery efforts.
“With about 30 percent of the region’s 3.1 million employed in the sector, economic growth in agriculture is more effective at reducing poverty and food insecurity,” it said in the document, that was posted on the NEDA website.
It added that investments in agriculture can help revive food production and create jobs following a crisis, and enable rural communities to recover.
The disruptions in transportation, trade, and labor impact on the production and delivery of goods and services affected some 33,037 rice farmers in the region, as reported by the Department of Agriculture.
This was because farmers and fisherfolk were unable to continue their livelihood activities due to the government-imposed lockdowns in the region, the document said.
It was also noted that border closures and the unavailability of public transportation have limited the access of farmers to production inputs that resulted in higher cost of production and marketing.
“Users of agricultural products discontinued their orders because public markets, where most agricultural products are sold, are closed. The demand for agriculture products also declined because bulk buyers like hotels and restaurants were closed. These factors resulted to glut in agriculture products,” the document said.
It added, “The problem was compounded with lack of agricultural extension workers to assist farmers and growers and the difficulty in accessing capital for production and operating costs.”
In the region’s recovery plan, it was stressed that challenges on both the supply and demand arise from changes in producer and consumer behavior, which needs to be addressed to meet the country’s food requirements during and after the public health crisis.
Policy actions and strategies for 2020 to 2021 will focus on improving the productivity of the sector to meet the demand of the populace and address supply chain disruptions, it added.
Unhampered movement of goods and services will be ensured through efficient transport and logistics systems, it said, adding that construction of better road and transport infrastructures, as well as sufficient and strategically-located facilities are vital.
There is also a need to promote commodity diversification to increase the supply of nutritious food, considering an increased demand for it in the time of the pandemic, it said, adding that farmers will be encouraged to engage in commodity diversification, particularly of crops with high market potential.
The plan also recommended promoting the adoption of urban agriculture, backyard and household gardening of edibles, and community farming.
“Urban households and communities will be encouraged to produce fresh and healthy food from their own backyards and spaces, and contribute to ensuring food security,” it added.
The document stressed that local government units are in a strategic position to perform a catalytic role in promoting urban agriculture by providing opportunities that will make it a habit among the constituents.*