By DAWN CECILIA PEÑA
MANILA – Filipino farmers are urging the Department of Trade and Industry to implement measures like price ceiling and buffer fund to address increasing prices of basic goods and necessities.
“The government has power and authority to act on price hikes. Basic sectors – workers, farmers, and consumers are most vulnerable to ‘price shocks’. The absence of any aid or economic relief for marginalized sectors worsens the situation,” Anakpawis Partylist chairperson Rafael Mariano said.
The prices of staple food such as rice, meat, poultry, bread, canned goods, cooking oil and agricultural produce spiked in local markets over the past months. In particular, from March 2021 to March 2022, prices of carrots and Baguio beans increased from P80 ($1.5) per kilogram to P100/kg ($2.5), while tomatoes spiked from P40/kg ($.80) to P60/kg ($1.20).
Globally, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s recent World Food Situation report said that the food price index has doubled from 65.6 in 2004 to 135.7 early this year.
Read: 18 hours of work per day? Small businesses bear the brunt of price hikes, call for government response
Read: Government should look after farmers, fisherfolk as oil price increases
Aside from food, oil price hikes also caused increased production cost. In an earlier statement, Pamalakaya said fuel costs of fisherfolk in Zambales have increased by $34 monthly.
Farmers, meanwhile, lament that the cost of fertilizers has continued to soar.
“The government is not helpless in addressing price hikes. The DTI may recommend the imposition of [a] mandated price ceiling on basic and prime commodities as stipulated in the Price Act of 1992,” Mariano said.
Under the Price Act, conditions that warrant a mandated price ceiling include effects of calamity and emergency; acts of price manipulation; and artificial and unreasonable increases in the prices of commodities. Basic necessities include rice; corn; bread; fresh, dried, and canned fish and other marine products; fresh pork; beef; and poultry meal; fresh eggs; fresh and processed milk; fresh vegetables; root crops; coffee; sugar; cooking oil; salt; laundry soap; detergents; firewood; charcoal; candles; and drugs classified as essential by the Department of Health.
While inflation also decelerated to 3.0 percent in January 2022 from 3.2 percent in December 2021, local thinktank IBON Foundation said that while this provides relief to Filipinos earning very little from informal work, lower inflation due to “lower aggregate demand because joblessness is cutting incomes, depleting savings, and reducing household spending this also means family welfare is worsening.”
“The Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Agriculture can procure and stockpile basic goods and sell them to the public at much lower and affordable prices,” Mariano said.
Aside from imposing a price ceiling, the government can allocate a buffer fund to implementing agencies to procure, purchase, import, or stockpile any basic necessity or prime commodity and devise ways to sell them at reasonable prices, especially to the poor.
In many countries, buffer funds help in stabilizing prices, especially in places frequently hit by disasters. (JJE, DAA)