MANILA - The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on Saturday urged local government units (LGUs) to include sugar in their relief packs to help sugar farmers weather the coronavirus crisis.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, who serves as the task force’s spokesperson, said the Department of Agriculture (DA) made the recommendation in an effort to offset the slump in the demand for sugar following business closures due to lockdowns in Luzon and other parts of the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Aprubado po ang rekomendasyon ng DA na hikayatin ang mga LGU na isama ang asukal sa mga relief goods sa kani-kanilang lugar upang tulungan ang ating sugar industry," he said in a virtual press briefing.
(The DA has approved a recommendation to encourage LGUs to include sugar in their relief goods to help the sugar industry.)
According to the Sugar Regulatory Administration, the Philippines has a total sugarcane plantation area of 409,714 hectares as of September 2019.
Some 67 percent of the sugarcane plantation area in the country is located in the Visayas, 19 percent in Mindanao and the remaining 14 percent in Luzon.
Majority of sugarcane farmers- about 85 percent- are considered small farmers. They cultivate 5 hectares and below of sugarcane. Meanwhile, some 14 percent of farmers cultivate 5 to 50 hectares of sugarcane, while only 1 percent cultivate 50 hectares and above.
During the press briefing, Nograles revealed that the national sub-group on food security has also been reorganized into the national task group on food security.
This, after National Task Force (NTF) COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. was authorized to abolish and reorganize sub-task groups to carry out the government's response against the disease, he said.
Nograles said the DA would lead the new task group. Other members of the task group are the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), the National Security Council (NSC) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).