With the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic increasing, there are fears food shortages coupled with soaring prices are likely to have devastating effects on the poor.
Giving update on national sectorial update on response to Covid-19, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Jimmy Opelo said: “We cannot afford to have food and nutrition insecurity at the time when people need to be healthier and stronger to withstand the effects of the Covid-19.”
He said government continues to monitor and put in place measures to guard essential activities such as sale of livestock, surveillance for diseases of economic importance, laboratory services, pests control, farm production, food supply chain as well as border inspections.
“The Ministry, in collaboration with the National Development Bank is implementing the ISF. The facility provides all categories of farmers with interest free loans meant to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 pandemic. A total of P100 million is available for the agricultural sector,” said Opelo.
He further stated that the delivery of agricultural services is continuing uninterrupted and therefore farmers are encouraged to engage fully in agriculture activities by utilizing all government programs such as ISPAAD and LIMID, at their disposal for sustenance of the economy.
He said provision of inputs under major programmes such as ISPAAD is continuing uninterrupted, adding that is done under strict observation of COVID-19 protocols. He spoke of reducing the risk of the spread of the virus through overcrowding, especially in areas with a high number of beneficiaries, farmers are assisted by locality.
He said each segment is allocated a day on which they will be services and such information is communicated through various platforms such as Farmer Associations and placing the roster at the extension offices.
“Existing horticulture farmers are provided with a 50 percent grant of up to P150 000 mainly for procurement of protected or covered production material such as tunnels, as well as irrigation system and inputs. The facility is implanted in collaboration with CEDA.A total of P20 million is available under the facility,” he stated.
He also stated thatimport restrictions have been done through border closures for agricultural commodities that are in high supply locally, adding that this is done to assure local producers of a market for their produce.
Opelo said there is increased use of digital platforms to provide extension service and access to information without the need for physical human contact. He said agricultural shows and auctions can only be done virtually, adding that physical events are still prohibited.
In order to safeguard the lives of the citizenry, Opelo stated that the government has come up with measures, to which strict adherence is ensured in the agricultural sector, to curb the spread of the coronavirus.