Vegetable prices soar 300% in the wake of 'Pepeng'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 12 2009 02:29 PM | Updated as of Oct 14 2009 02:50 AM

Yap: Vegetables not covered by price control

MANILA - A week after typhoon "Pepeng" (international code name Parma) wrought destruction in Northern Luzon, leaving over 250 people dead and missing, those spared are struggling to cope with food and fuel shortage.

In Metro Manila, where thousands remain displaced due to heavy flooding caused by another storm two weeks ago, the effects could be seen in soaring prices of farm products.

ANC's Dateline Philippines reported that vegetable prices in the capital have surged by up to 300% as farm-to-market roads in the north remain flooded or blocked by mud and boulders, hampering delivery of crops to markets.

For instance, a kilogram of cabbage, which used to sell at P45 in public markets, now costs P120. Prices of potatoes, carrots and string beans have also more than doubled.

According to Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, the government is now talking to retailers to see if price increases are warranted.

He added that negotiations are also underway to be able to source vegetables from Nueva Vizcaya and provinces in Mindanao after Baguio, where 50% of vegetables sold in the metro are sourced, was hit hard by the recent typhoon.

"It's really difficult. Agricultural products are not like canned goods whose production costs are fixed and can be pegged at three-month average prices. Agricultural products are cyclical and seasonal, prices depend on the supply," Yap noted.

"This is the first time that the Department of Agriculture is scouting for and buying crops to be able to supply public markets. Our only job before was to give production support," he said.

Meanwhile, consumers may soon find dwindling stocks of basic goods in supermarkets, as some major retailers threaten to pull out items that the government requires to be sold at lower prices.

Store owners said they would rather return inventories of rice, canned goods, soap and condiments to manufacturers rather than sell them at a loss, according to the Philippine Association of Supermarkets Inc. (PASI).

"If you find items that are below cost, you pull them out and return them to suppliers. That is our position. Complying with the price control is impossible," PASI President Carlos Cabochan said.

This comes after the government placed price ceilings on commodities in light of the recent calamities. With a report from BusinessWorld