[Solution to high food prices] Boost local production and support food producers, not importation

In a media forum today, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said farmers and food producers do not see importation as the solution to soaring food prices in contrary to proposals made by the Department of Agriculture to allow more pork imports “DA must do away with its ‘importation instinct’ and focus on boosting local food production.”

The peasant group said the government particularly the agriculture, trade and industry, and finance departments are doing short of what they are expected to do to address the spiking prices of food, particularly the prices of vegetables, pork and chicken, and other products. Consumers complained that actual market prices of food are way higher than government Suggested Retail Prices (SRP) prices. 

“The DA, DTI, and DOF could only blame each other and point to unscrupulous traders as behind the food price hikes. They must first realize that the full deregulation and liberalization of domestic agriculture, poultry, and livestock industries led us to this situation of high food prices,” says KMP leader and former DAR Secretary Rafael Mariano.

Trends and forecasts from industry players in livestock and broiler raisers point to further dwindling of local supply in the future if the government will not provide proper solutions and interventions.

Instead of helping boost local production and ensuring price controls and necessary price freeze, the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced that the country will import 54,000 MT of pork from the US and European countries to address the shortfall of domestic pork supply. Both the livestock and poultry importation are fully liberalized based on policies imposed by the World Trade Organization. In the past weeks, prices of pork soared to as much as P350 to P400 per kilo in markets as local supply dwindled to the effects of Asian Swine Flu (ASF) since 2019. 

“The DA always resorts to importation as a default fix-it-all but this is not the viable long-term solution to problems on the production, supply, and demand side of food production. Hindi porke’t mayroon pang nabibiling pagkain sa palengke ay sapat na. Paano kung napakamahal na at hindi naman mabili ng consumers, magugutom pa rin ang mamamayan,” according to Rafael Mariano, chairman emeritus of KMP.

Atty. Bong Inciong of the United Broilers Association (UBRA) said the government favors importation more than supporting local livestock and broiler breeders. “Ang suportado ng mga polisiya ng gobyerno ay importasyon.” He proposed that the Department of Agriculture intervene on the demand side of poultry and chicken products. Inciong said that in 2020, the importation of chicken was at 18 percent while local broiler production receded by 30 percent. 

“Sa tingin namin hindi seryoso ang gobyerno sa mga ipinapatupad nitong mga batas, lalo na sa pagpatupad ng Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act,” Inciong said.  

Engr. Rosendo So of Samahan ng Industriya at Agrikultura (SINAG) said the government must ensure the safety of local borders to stop the spread of ASF and give confidence to hog raisers. He said that out of the 7 million pig heads in Luzon, only 2 million pig heads are left due to the widespread effects of ASF. In Visayas and Mindanao, out of the 5.8 million pig heads, more than 750,000 pig heads were culled. He further said that hog raisers affected by ASF did not receive enough assistance and subsidies from the Department of Agriculture. “Ang solusyon kaagad ay importation,” he said, citing that the inventory of the country’s frozen meat is still at 23 million MT. He also proposed the promotion of alternative food choices for Filipinos. 

“Matagal nang sinasabi ng DA na mataas ang presyo sa retail, at maghuhuli sila ng mga traders na nagsasamantala pero wala namang nahuhuli,” So said in response to the DA’s announcement that it will punish profiteering traders. 

According to Joseph Canlas of Alyansa ng Magbubukid sa Gitnang Luzon, farmers and food producers are not benefiting from the current high food prices. “Hindi maramdaman ng mga magsasaka ang tulong at ayuda ng gobyerno. Sa totoo lang, mababa ang mga presyo sa farmgate, pero mataas pagdating sa mga palengke. Hindi nakikinabang ang mga magsasaka sa mataas na presyo ng mga gulay.” said Canlas who cited that farmgate prices of red onion in Pangasinan only ranges from P35 to P40 per kilo but as high to P150 to P200 in the markets. The peasant leader also blamed the government’s policies of land-use conversion that affects farmers and food production. .

KMP said consumers must also raise concerns with the rising food prices, now almost unaffordable for all sectors and even food producers. #

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