Agri group seeks policies supporting local production

Catherine Talavera - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Tugon Kabuhayan, along with producers of protein-rich food, are hoping that the next administration will focus on policies supporting local production to ensure the country’s food security amid global challenges.

In a virtual briefing yesterday, Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis Perez urged candidates in the upcoming elections to prioritize food security on their agenda once elected.

“This call is not just for the candidates to prioritize our food security, but moreover, a call to all Filipinos to vote for the right candidate who will propel our economy towards sustainable development, benefiting our major food producers; our fisherfolks and farmers,” Tugon Kabuhayan said in a statement yesterday.

National Federation of Hog Farmers president Chester Warren Tan said they learned during the pandemic how vulnerable the food supply was.

Tan said the cost of production for pig had already increased by 40 percent to P150 to P160 a kilo compared to P100 to P110 per kilo.

“We have to rethink our strategy. Our feed producers need our support. One way of helping them is to increase corn production so that there is enough to feed our livestock. If we have enough feed, the cost of production for hog farmers will go down. We are able to lower the price and pass on the savings to consumers,” Tan said.

Tan said the rise in fuel prices also significantly impacted transport costs of their products.

Socsksargen Federation of Fishing and Allied Industries Inc. president Rosanna Contreras said the rising fuel costs are also affecting fisherfolks.

“Considering that fuel is 60 to 70 percent of the cost of operation, we are looking at the very least an increase in cost of production by 40 to 50 percent,” Contreras said, adding that fisherfolks are looking for ways to save on fuel.

“We suggest suspending the excise tax and VAT on crude oil to help our fishermen,” she said.

Contreras said rising fuel costs have already led some fisherfolks to consider suspending their operations.

Apart from rising production costs due to the impact of skyrocketing oil prices, Tugon Kabuhayan said the Ukraine-Russia conflict may also affect consumers, as it may lead to inflationary pressures that will affect household consumption.

It cited data from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research which estimated that the conflict in Ukraine could lead to a 0.5 percent decline in global gross domestic product (GDP) this year, and close to one percent by 2023, which is about $1 trillion off global GDP.

“It adds up to three percent to global inflation in 2022 and about two percentage points in 2023, which would also increase the cost of living and could further put pressure on household consumption,” the group said.

Aside from addressing production cost issues, Contreras hopes the next government will promote ease of doing business by making it more accessible for fishermen to acquire permits.

“We also suggest allowing us to seek new fishing grounds to expand our operations. We hope to secure rights and licenses for these fishing grounds,” Contreras said.

For his part, Tugon Kabuhayan co-convenor Norbert Chingcuanco said in order to grow the country’s aquaculture sector, there needs to be a faster and more efficient way for fishers to acquire long-term permits.

“Most mariculture operation permits are issued yearly, this is very risky considering the huge investment on capital outlay, technology and personnel. We are still waiting for the Water Use Act to be passed. We need those who are going to be in office to invest time in our industries. The aquaculture industry requests the government to allow us to lease water in different remote areas,” Chingcuanco said.

For his part, Fresh Options CEO obert Lo expressed hope that the next administration would pass a law on national land use.

“The Land Use Act has been sitting for four years in the Senate. This led to people speculating on land, leaving it idle and non-productive. Our producers are getting discouraged,” Lo said.

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