The government task force on top of the Covid-19 response has approved the recommendation of the Department of Agriculture to import an additional 300,000 metric tons of rice, “if necessary.”

In directives released on Friday, the Interagency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases said it had approved recommendations of the Department of Agriculture (DA), including additional rice imports.

Read: IATF directives, March 27, 2020

Importation of an additional 300,000 metric tons of rice will be done through government-to-government arrangements with trading partners from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) or other sources, including India and Pakistan, at the prevailing Asean free trade area tariff of 35 percent.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar earlier this month said the Philippines would import 1.5 million to 1.6 million metric tons of rice, half of last year’s volume, this year.

The task force also approved the DA’s recommendation to request Asean countries to “refrain from imposing trade-restrictive measures to ensure that existing supply contracts are prioritized.”

The IATF reiterated an earlier directive to:

  • allow farming and fishing activities to continue;
  • allow the free movement of all supplies used for agriculture, including food packaging and manufacturing materials; and
  • reactivate local price coordination councils and for local governments and market masters to strictly implement price freezes and suggested retail prices.

The DA’s “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat” or Alpas Contra sa Covid-19, and the “Plant, Plant,Plant Program” or 4Ps in Agriculture, will get their existing budget allocations worth P31 billion “to implement, expand, and increase food adequacy in the country,” the task force said. (