Advocates of Science and Technology for the People or AGHAM calls for immediate support to local food and meat producers to arrest the problem with skyrocketing prices of food commodities. The scientist group urges the Duterte government to urgently address the issue affecting every Filipinos’ gut problem.
The all-time high prices of commodities such as pork, chicken meat, and vegetables that have been hurting the consumers and the local producers continue to surge in the midst of the health and economic crises that the people are facing.
In the cases of pork, the prices of pork ham (kasim) and pork belly (liempo) have increased by 6% and 5%, respectively from the start of the year (January 4, 2021) with the current prices (February 2, 2021) based from the Department of Agriculture’s Bantay Presyo Prices Monitoring. This is most likely a conservative estimate given the actual price one sees on the market today.
According to the Department of Agriculture, the prices of pork ham (kasim) and pork belly (liempo) have increased from October 21 of last year compared to the present cost that have increased by P20 to P40 in the last two weeks.
But according to the Department of Agriculture’ National Meat Inspection Service (DA-NMIS), we have sufficient supply of both locally slaughtered and imported pork that are stored in cold storage facilities since the third week of October 2020 which is 55% or 38,216 MT compared to 2019 in the same period. For the frozen and local and imported dressed chicken and chicken parts, there is 260% increase or 83,266 MT compared to the 22,953MT in 2019.
Seemingly, the Duterte government cannot identify the real problem. The DA pointed out the trader’s collusion in manipulating the high prices of food products is the culprit. While local producers pointed out that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on domestic food, the prevalence of the African Swine Fever, and the liberalized poultry industry have been hurting the local production.
The 60-day price freeze of pork and chicken that the President has imposed does not bode well with the local industry as this will only hamper the capacity of local producers given the high cost of production of poultry and highly favors commercial traders of imported meat products.
The crisis in the prices of meat products will continue to persist as the national government continues to turn a blind eye on the root cause of the problem: the historical neglect of the poultry industry despite being the biggest contributor to the country’s local agriculture. The livestock industry contributes 17.74% in the total agricultural production with hogs as the major commodity. The industry itself is worth P260 billion. Along with its allied industries, the value of livestocks in the country can reach up to P400 billion. Hence, it is described as a big complex value chain of agricultural products.
The problem boils down to the fact that the government is not keen on providing enough support to the local livestock industry while freely opening up our market for imported products. This can be gleaned with the staggering increase in the imports of livestock and poultry by 5.6% that is worth $261 billion. At this time when the country is facing both the Covid-19 pandemic and the African Swine Fever, instead of providing emergency subsidies for our local producers, we lose sight of the need to enhance our capacity to produce local poultry and livestock products to stabilize the supply, thereby lowering the prices in the market. Our local swine industry is also losing its battle against globalization policies that favors importers rather than improving our domestic production. Supporting domestic agriculture includes enhancing capacity to combat emerging pests and diseases such as the ASF and bird flu.
With the country lacking technological capacity to achieve biosafety protocols and other quarantine mechanisms, establishing an inefficient diagnostic tool and systems, we are putting our swine industry at high risk of collapse, hence reducing our country’s food security in terms of protein supply coming from meat and meat products.
The current food crisis in the country should be a wake up call to the government to put in place a policy that builds on the protection and strengthening of domestic industries and local agricultural production. The country must reverse its addiction to food imports, especially in times of disasters. We cannot rely forever on the volatile global market and, instead, must cling to self-reliance to address our own domestic needs. It is logical to demand the government to ensure food security and self-sufficiency in order to have an affordable, sufficient, safe, and stable supply of food for the Filipinos.###