MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr needs to address food security and possible price manipulation of agricultural products immediately to rein in inflation, an economist said Wednesday.
While the country's inflation rate slightly eased to 8.6 last February, economist Michael Batu noted in a public briefing that the strongest inflation driver was food prices.
"Kung titingnan mo yung datos galing sa PSA, iyong food price inflation noong nakaraang buwan ay pumalo na sa 10.8 percent, nag-double digits na ito. Ibig sabihin nito, ang nag-drive doon sa 8.6 percent na inflation ay sa pagtaas ng presyo ng pagkain," he said.
He also urged the Marcos administration to come up with short- and long-term policies to ensure the country's food security, as this gap was one of the reasons behind food price inflation.
"Dahil food insecure tayo, isa yan sa mga nagda-drive ng food inflation kasi mayroon tayong kakulangan sa suplay ng ibang agricultural products. Iyong iba naman, may sobra-sobrang supply pero nagkakaroon ng price manipulation sa mga markets," he said.
Batu also noted that the government's task group on food security, created in 2020, must also look into possible price manipulations in some agricultural products.
"Maganda rin tingnan ng task force na ito ay iyong price manipulation na nangyayari sa iilan nating agricultural sector, para makita natin talaga kung ang cause ba talaga nito ay ang kakulangan ng supply, o pagtaas ng demand, o nagkakaroon ba talaga ng cartel o price manipulation," he said.
Last month, the Philippine Competition Commission said it was investigating a possible cartel pushing the prices of onions, with the probe expected to finish in the next 2 to 3 months.
EFFECT ON MSMEs
For his part, Go Negosyo founder and private sector lead for jobs Joey Concepcion said he was optimistic that prices would come down in the "coming months," especially among micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME).
"[Prices are] coming down, right now, we are not increasing our prices anymore. eventually down the road, we may even decrease [them]... In the next coming months, the prices of food and all that will definitely come down," he said.
Concepcion also said it was about time that MSMEs in the Philippines were attention, as they were vital to "eradicate poverty in this country."
This, as the Go Negosyo's Kapatid Angat sa Lahat Agri Program (KALAP) was signed this week, giving local farmers and fisherfolk access to funding and mentorship from bigger agri players.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is also the concurrent Agriculture Secretary, earlier said he would support the program and other initiatives allowing farmers and fishers to partner with large agribusinesses.
"We've been really trying to help our MSMEs for 17 years. Isang malaking bagay yan. Kung gusto nating i-eradicate ang poverty in this country, dapat tingnan natin ang micro and small entrepreneurs. They're a huge part of the negosyo community," Concepcion said.
—With report from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News
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