File photo courtesy of PhilRice.

Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases has approved the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) protocol on ensuring the country’s food supply, which includes allowing healthy rice farmers to continue field activities.

Amidst the threat of COVID-19, rice farmers, together with fellow farmers and farmworkers, fisherfolk, and agribusiness personnel, shall be exempted from home quarantine based on DA protocol approved on March 24.

This released protocol covers the current farm activities, specifically rice harvesting and transportation of harvests. Other farm activities such as land preparation, planting, crop maintenance, threshing, drying, milling, sorting, and packaging are also allowed.

“We appeal to the provincial governors, city and municipal mayors to allow their farmers, fishers, and workers in food production, processing, and manufacturing facilities to do their jobs, provided they adhere to the social distancing protocol and follow health and sanitation measures,” agriculture secretary William D. Dar said.

Guided by Protocols on Enhanced Community Quarantine, the DA Memorandum Circular No. 9 stressed that rice farmers and other agriculture workers who will be allowed to proceed with farm activities must not exhibit any symptoms of COVID-19, keep the number of field workers at the minimum, follow safety protocols, and observe social distancing.

Interior and Local Government Sec. Eduardo M. Año already advised local government officials and the department’s regional directors and field staff to adhere to prescribed protocols that would ensure “food availability and sufficiency during COVID-19 crisis.”

In transporting major agricultural commodities, DA issues free food passes to show at the checkpoint. Applications are online:

For farmers without internet access, proof that their buyers would accept their produce can be shown at checkpoints. This is only applicable when delivering in towns near their communities.

Inquiries on food pass are accommodated in the helpline: 0917 505 3380. Type FPASS (space) query or concern.