MANILA - The Department of Agriculture on Thursday said it is planning to put up "large food markets" in Metro Manila where products would be sourced directly from farmers to stabilize food prices and provide income to them during the coronavirus crisis.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar did not give specific locations for the planned food hubs, but said that these would house "large warehouses, cold storages at retail" stalls.
"Dito din yung wholesale na galing probinsya," Dar told senators during a hybrid hearing.
"This will increase the income of the producers and at the same time, stabilize the prices in the markets and give the public affordable prices," he said.
Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan lauded the proposal, saying the DA should ensure that this would be the "new normal" for farmers.
"Cutting out the middlemen and increasing the income of our farmers will be the biggest incentive for them to keep planting," Pangilinan said.
"Dapat gawin na nating new normal ito na ang gobyerno ay direktang bumibili sa farmers sa maayos na presyo. Cut out the middle men, increase the income of our farmers," he said.
As of May 21, the government has directly procured P2.4 billion worth of fruits, vegetables and rice from farmers, Dar said.
The government is also extending zero-interest loans to farmers and fisherfolk to help them increase their capital during the global pandemic, he said.
While the DA has yet to put up its proposed large food markets in the capital region, the agency has been opening small stalls in barangays to bring food closer to residential areas and discourage farmers from throwing away unsold crops.
The Agriculture department has also mounted an online shopping platform to deliver produce to Metro Manila homes during the COVID-19 lockdown.