PH under state of calamity due to swine fever, typhoons, price manipulation
MANILA, Philippines — Agriculture Secretary William Dar on Monday said the country is now under a state of calamity because of a scorching rally in pork, chicken, vegetables, and fruit prices brought about by the persistence of African swine fever in farms, the typhoons that devastated crops, and the alleged price manipulation among traders and resellers.
Pork prices have risen by as much as 55 percent from last year, while vegetable prices have skyrocketed by as much as 275 percent.
This has prompted the Department of Agriculture (DA) and other local and national agencies to recommend the implementation of a price freeze to the President.
The DA on Monday again urged President Duterte to sign an executive order that would put a price ceiling on key food items as Filipino households tightened their purse strings due to exorbitant food prices.
In particular, the agency wanted the price ceiling at P270 to P300 a kilogram for pork and P160 a kilo for chicken. These commodities are currently being sold at an average of P400 a kilo and P170 a kilo in public markets.
Hog and chicken raisers, supermarkets, as well as economists who talked to the Inquirer thumbed down the idea, noting that price control would not solve the root of the problem—lack of supply.
“Some of our members are saying that they would postpone slaughtering their hogs once the directive is passed. It would only discourage hog raisers from reinvesting,” said Edwin Cheng, president of the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines Inc.
He added that the rates may be nailed at P330 to P360 a kilo for pork at best, but not below that.
Even the United Broilers Raisers Association (Ubra) is not too keen on the idea. Bong Inciong, president of Ubra, said the cost structure for raising chicken already increased that a retail price of P160 a kilo for chicken would leave raisers with losses.
From P20 a piece of a day-old chick in September, Inciong said, the price has risen to P48 a piece this month.
Dar, who insists that price manipulation is behind the increasing rates, said in a press briefing that the executive order for a price freeze would add more teeth to the Price Act, and would ensure that unscrupulous traders would be penalized.
Agriculture Undersecretary Kristine Evangelista who leads the agency’s price monitoring drives in the markets, said no one had been penalized since the pandemic began—not even when Mr. Duterte issued a 60-day price freeze in Luzon in November.
Once the directive is implemented, Steven Cua of the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association said supermarket owners might be forced to stop selling these produce and retailers may also do the same in wet markets to trim losses. INQ
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