Government, private sector craft food security strategies amid rising prices


THE government and the private sector are now finalizing strategies to improve food security in the country amid inflation woes, according to an official of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

While DTI-Consumer Protection Group (CPG) Undersecretary Ruth B. Castelo cannot divulge all details on the Trade department’s initiatives to help enhance food security, she gave a hint that the government and private sector are mulling over setting limits for traders.

“Of course the DTI needs to help as our contribution to food security. These are agricultural products, but Secretary [Alfredo] Pascual has proposed initiatives to President Bongbong Marcos, which the President approved. However, we cannot disclose the details except that traders will be limited,” Castelo said in a televised interview on Monday.

“We are coordinating with the private sector to reduce the steps in the supply chain, particularly between the farmer and the retailer. So this is what we’re finalizing now but the Secretary will make the announcement once we’ve ironed out all the details necessary,” the Trade undersecretary said, partly in Filipino.

The National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC), chaired by Trade Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual convened a special meeting two weeks ago to discuss measures to mitigate the effects of the rising prices of onion towards consumers and improve its supply.

Castelo revealed on Monday that DTI witnessed through its price monitoring operations the huge mark-up between the farmgate price or landed cost of onions and the retail price.

Data from Bureau of Customs (BoC), she noted, shows that the landed cost of imported onion is only P14.

Castelo added that based on DTI’s price monitoring operations, retail prices of local red onions in Metro Manila markets are ranging from P180 to as much as P350 per kilo. Prices of the commodity are expected to subside since local farmers have started harvesting, according to her.

In the NPCC’s January 25 meeting chaired by Pascual as DTI head and attended by representatives of national government agencies including the Department of Agriculture (DA) and National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), the council members forged “interagency” initiatives to address the rising prices of onions.

Urging members of the council, Pascual had said then, “Given this crucial situation, we are to deliver immediate results to temper the prices of goods and ensure the availability of affordable basic necessities and prime commodities for consumers. We must tap other agencies who can be our allies in this endeavor.”

The DTI, as one of the implementing agencies of the Price Act, has been helping DA monitor prices of some agricultural products.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the country’s headline inflation increased to 8.1 percent in December 2022 from 8 percent in November 2022.

PSA said the higher inflation in December 2022 compared to  November 2022 was “primarily” brought about by the faster year-on-year growth rate in the index of food and non-alcoholic beverages of 10.2 percent from 10 percent in November 2022.

Food inflation at the national level rose further to 10.6 percent in December 2022 from 10.3 percent in November 2022.

Image credits: Bernard Testa