News & Events

Villar: Pandemic exposes flaws in food supply chain

By Butch Fernandez

Published from:


SEN. Cynthia Villar views the deadly Covid-19 virus as an “eye-opener” that should prod authorities to promptly address “limitations of the country’s food supply and shortcomings in its distribution system” exposed by the pandemic.

Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Food, noted that the prevailing pandemic “highlighted the need to promote self-sufficiency among Filipinos, particularly families or households and communities.”

“Covid-19 is an eye-opener for many people, not only in relation to our health, but the sufficiency and source of the food we eat, too,” the senator said Monday. “It made us realize how dependent and vulnerable we are when it comes to food. So much so that being food self-sufficient has become an important part of our life goals in the new normal.”

In a news statement, Villar recalled that when community quarantine and lockdown was implemented to contain the virus, Filipinos found themselves running out of food supply “in a matter of a week or so.” She observed, however, that the food supply shortage “was, of course, due to many factors—no money due to loss of income, no access to food due to closures of nearby stores, or food outlets and, movement of food supply was hampered.”

She noted that this prompted food experts to agree that the ongoing pandemic exposed flaws in food supply, fragilities in food systems and the urgent need to ensure that these loopholes be plugged by shifts in government priorities as well as people’s mindsets.

The senator added: “We have seen a renewed interest and enthusiasm in urban farming and backyard gardening. That’s a good indication and we should keep the momentum going. Growing food in one’s backyard is the most effective way, especially for food-poor families, to make sure that they will not go hungry during emergencies.”

Villar reminded, however, “it is not enough to just promote backyard gardening and provide seeds or fertilizers,” stressing that “it should not stop there, it should be supported by practical and sustainable programs and policies.”

A longtime proponent of urban agriculture to avert “food poverty,” she observed that people get restless and angry when they get hungry. “That is not unique to us Filipinos. It is human nature and universal. The expression ‘food is life’ is very true.”

Asserting that the right to food is a basic human right, Villar suggested: “We can empower people to grow or produce their own food as much as we can, but agriculture officials and policy-makers should put in place a sustainable program to ensure that the people will not run out of food, with or without a crisis.”

She added that besides food security, agriculture should also be about food self-sufficiency, citing that although government prioritized the unhampered movement of food all over the country, “it is not logistically possible to accomplish it during an emergency, or pandemic situation.”

Villar recalled that during the first few weeks of the lockdown, “there were barangays and cities that ran out of supply, particularly of fresh crops or produce. Most vegetables, poultry or meat come from outside urban cities, so it took some time for the supply to normalize. Even farmers complained that their crops rotted because they cannot transport them to reach the buyers.”

At the same time, Villar observed that the United Nations’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued a warning that the ongoing pandemic will “further disrupt food supply chains and adversely affecting everyone, from farmers to consumers and food wholesalers to retailers.”

Moreover, the FAO noted that centralized food supply chain can easily be disrupted by emergencies such as a virus outbreak. FAO also cited communities that practice integrated farming are “less affected” by the Covid-19 crisis, as they can easily consume the food they grow at home when they lose their source of income or livelihood. On top of that, she added, “they can also sell their crops or produce and earn money to buy their other essential needs.”


© 2011 Villar SIPAG. All Rights Reserved