Food prices stabilized this month and may remain steady in July as agricultural industries are slowly rebounding from the restrictions and economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) latest price monitoring report published on June 18, average prices of basic agricultural commodities have been stable for the past two months, with minimal increases and declines across products.
DA spokesperson Noel Reyes mainly attributed this positive trend to the ongoing harvest season and the improvements in logistical gaps following the COVID-19 crisis.
He added that the agency hoped improved operations in agriculture would lead to lower food inflation, but also noted that the country’s food production and distribution systems might be challenged given the onset of the rainy season.
However, records also showed that food prices in the market, at least in Metro Manila, have yet to go back to their pr-pandemic levels, especially for pork, with prices having gone up by as much as 68 percent.
For instance, fresh pork ham and pork belly are being sold for P340 and P370 a kilogram, respectively, against the average price of P200 and P220 a kilo in 2019. Similarly, a kilo of beef rump is being sold for P420 on average against its prepandemic rate of P340 a kilo.
The average prices of lowland and highland vegetables also recorded an uptick between P5 and P40 a kilo depending on the variety, while prices of common fruits like bananas and mangoes also rose.
As for milkfish (bangus) and black carp (tilapia), as well as rice, prices remained stable compared to rates in the same period last year, the same with basic cooking commodities being monitored by the DA like cooking oil and sugar.
Consumers, especially minimum wage earners, have decried the increase in food prices and have asked the government to rein in runaway price spikes.
In response, economic managers opened up the country to more imports, which agricultural leaders opposed, stressing that such policies will kill local industries and lead to even higher food prices in the long run.
Government efforts to strike a balance between maintaining protectionist policies and liberalizing agricultural industries have sparked heated debates among stakeholders.
Authorities, meanwhile, hope that with the ongoing mass vaccination in the country, economic recovery may begin this year thus putting more cash in the pockets of farmers and fisherfolk.
Industry groups like the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura and the Federation of Free Farmers said, however, that they were not hopeful that the country’s 10.5 million farmers and fishers will be included in the government’s vaccination priority list. INQ
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