In celebration of the World Food Day (WFD) 2022, the Department of Agriculture (DA) reaffirms its commitment AND A PARTNER IN addressing hunger and malnutrition under the leadership of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and AS Agriculture Secretary.

During the WFD 2022 opening ceremony on August 17, DA Senior Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban expressed that the DA remains devoted to implementing programs that combat global hunger and malnutrition and promote food safety—a timely call as the WFD celebration coincides with the 50th founding anniversary of the DA – National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), the 29th Meat Safety Consciousness Week, and the Food Safety Awareness Week.

“By strengthening the value chain, ensuring food security requires the inclusion of compliance to food safety standards for its recipe of success. Every Filipino must not mainly have food on the table; they must consume the food that is safe—safe from harmful substances, and other factors that compromise the health of our good consumers.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the WFD 2022 highlights the impacts of “multiple global challenges including the ongoing [COVID-19] pandemic, conflict, climate change, rising prices[,] and international tensions” to the attainment of global food security. Thus, the WFD 2022 revolves on the theme, “Leave no one behind: better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life for all.”

Keynote speaker Senator Cynthia Villar, who heads the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Food, and Agrarian Reform, raised concerns as the Philippines only ranked 64 out of 113 countries in the 2021 Global Food Security Index. She added that the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) also recorded about 44% of households as food-secure in 2018-2019.

Citing issues on inflation, skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, the COVID-19 pandemic and the emergence of transboundary animal diseases, declining agricultural productivity, and increasing population in the country, the Senator reiterated the need to enhance assistance services for agricultural workers and to formulate and implement legislations to improve agricultural production and profitability in the country.

“We need to double our efforts to ensure that every Filipino, at all times, shall have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. We have to secure our farmers and fisherfolk and support them to grow the food that we need,” Senator Villar expressed.

ThisDA’s WFD celebration this year features a market of agricultural products from various regions and an exhibit highlighting the initiatives of its banner programs to fight hunger and malnutrition:

* Increasing rice production by distributing quality seeds, farm inputs, machineries, and technical assistance to 4.82 million rice farmers and 986 farmer cooperatives and associations (FCAs);

* Intensifying corn, cassava, and sorghum production for food and animal feeds by providing science-based interventions and support services to 556,833 farmers and 832 FCAs;

* Implementing sentinel protocol and clustering, establishing multiplier farms, enhancing insurance programs, and providing access to credit and loan assistance to 26,828 hog raisers and 3,415 groups through the Integrated National Swine Production Initiatives for Recovery and Expansion (INSPIRE);

* Streamlining farm operations and management, expanding production areas, and enhancing priority high-value commodities production, benefitting 527,043 individuals and 19,788 groups;

* Distributing fishing boats, fishing paraphernalia, and fingerlings, as well as delivering market development services and technical assistance to 527,043 fishers and 19,788 fisher groups;

* Enforcing fishing laws with vigilance;

* Constructing farm-to market roads in 80 locations;

* Improving the Navotas, Sual, Camaligan, and General Santos Fish Ports to improve the livelihoods of 13.73 million individuals; and

* Enhancing the Kadiwa ni Ani at Kita to remove layers of middlemen in transactions, which will increase profit of farmers and fisherfolk, set affordable prices for consumers, and benefit 2,726 groups by 2023.

The NMIS and the National Dairy Authority (NDA) also led the distribution of food packs to five mothers and ten daycare and elementary school children from Barangay Vasra, Quezon City.

The opening ceremony was graced by officials, bureau directors, heads of attached agencies and corporations, division chiefs, and personnel of the DA, led by Senior Usec. Panganiban.

Also present during the event were World Food Programme (WFP) Acting Country Director Dipayan Bhattacharyya, FAO Assistant Country Representative Tamara Palis Duran, and Quezon City Health Department Nutritionist Jirah Asa Sideco, who all shared messages of support to the Philippines’ plans of action towards food security. ### (Krystelle Ymari A. Vergara, DA-AFID)