Farmers' group wants mobile stores in barangays as Luzon quarantine blocks delivery of fresh produce

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 30) — The Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food called on more towns and cities to set up rolling stores for vegetables, fruits, and meat so farmers can directly sell their produce amid the Luzon-wide quarantine. 

In a statement, the industry group said local government units should set up "emergency trading centers" in barangays, which would allow farmers to sell their harvests despite the month-long shutdown of Luzon.

With public transportation shut down, farmers and raisers have said they are forced to sell their goods at a loss or throw away those that are rotting. A two-month price freeze is also in effect until early May, covering food and non-food essentials. This means prices of goods must be sold at their same cost on March 8, when the declaration of a public health emergency took effect.

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The group said these rolling stores are urgently needed as vegetable growers in Benguet cannot deliver their goods with roads blocked due to the COVID-19 outbreak, making it hard for them to deliver the goods.

“Emergency trading centers in barangays and subdivisions nearest to consumers will give people access to the food they need while enhanced community quarantine is in effect. Mobile and rolling stores should be immediately dispatched. The agribusiness sector, unhampered, must take the lead,” PCAFI President Danilo Fausto said in a statement.

"Farm produce should be able to reach the consumers. In the absence of traders to bridge the gap between the producers and consumers, the government should intervene to provide logistical requirements, delivery system and marketing support for the producers," he added.

Some cities like Pasig and Valenzuela have rolled out mobile palengke units to reduce crowds in public markets, in keeping with the social distancing protocol to prevent more coronavirus infections.

These trading centers would also serve as a common venue to sort, package, market, and deliver farm produce.

"They (farmers) should not be blocked at the checkpoints. Factories producing the packaging materials should be allowed to operate," Fausto said, saying that this remains a concern as some LGUs refuse to follow guidelines.

The Luzon-wide shutdown forced most establishments to close, except for crucial industries like food production and preparation, supermarkets, banks, and healthcare services. Food manufacturing plants continue to churn out their products for steady supply, while special food lanes in roads and expressways have been established to ensure free flow of goods.

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