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Rural areas need cold chain facilities

Fishers in provinces like Catanduanes would have to travel to other areas just to find sources of ice, which they need to preserve their catch. According to a business leader in the province, Catanduanes does not have an ice plant. Investors are wary of spending their money on the construction of factories that will produce and provide something as basic as ice because of the perennial power outages.

That something as simple as ice is beyond the reach of fishers and other agricultural producers in rural areas typifies the magnitude of the challenges confronting the Philippine farm sector, particularly in ensuring food security. Producers do not just contend with problems related to their farms or fishing areas; they also have to find ways to preserve food and prevent losses. Delivering their produce to markets is another challenge that producers must hurdle as logistics cost has skyrocketed following the easing of quarantine restrictions.

Putting up cold chain facilities in rural areas is key to government’s plan to increase food output, according to Renato Pamintuan, president of Bayside Terminal and Transportation Services Inc. (See, “Cold chain in rural areas to solve agri woes,” in the BusinessMirror, November 7, 2022). These cold storage facilities would encourage farmers and fishers to increase their output as they would not have to worry about their produce getting spoiled. Spoilage means losses for farmers and fishers as they often just throw away their rotten produce.

Cold chain facilities in rural areas would not just serve the food requirements of Filipinos; they would also facilitate the expansion of food exports. These cold chain facilities would help maintain the quality of food products and enable producers to meet the stringent sanitary and phytosanitary standards of importing countries. Foreign buyers are particular about the food products they purchase as contaminated items could threaten human health and their farm sector.

The establishment of these cold chain facilities, however, would not serve their purpose if food-producing areas continue to grapple with power outages. It would do well for the government to also focus on beefing up the supply of electricity in these areas. Without reliable power supply, cold chain facilities would be of little use to local agricultural producers.

Many rural areas in the country have abundant resources that can be used by power plants to produce electricity. The Bangui windmills in Ilocos Norte and the hydropower plants in Mindanao attest to the viability of renewable energy sources to energize factories and industries. Other provinces, such as Rizal, would soon have solar farms, which can augment their power supply.

Now is the best time for policymakers to take the necessary steps to beef up the food supply of the Philippines and make farming attractive again, particularly for young Pinoys. Attaining food security would require making the necessary investments in certain interventions, such as the setting up of these cold chain facilities in strategic areas and ensuring the reliability of power supply.

Producers are hoping that the national government will urgently take the lead in rolling out an effective cold chain strategy in line with President Marcos’s campaign promise to exhaust all efforts to ensure food security in the country.

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