Gov't keeps close watch over prices of agricultural goods

By Mia M. Gonzalez, Business Mirror

Posted at Oct 18 2010 09:49 PM | Updated as of Oct 19 2010 09:55 AM

 MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang has ordered the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to keep a close watch over prices of agricultural goods identified as “vulnerable” to the onslaught of Typhoon Juan, following a report of the Department of Agriculture (DA) that as much as 600,000 metric tons (MT) of palay were under threat by the typhoon.

Secretary Ricky Carandang of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office said Malacañang is “concerned” about a possible increase in the prices of palay, corn and commercially raised fish, which the DA has deemed vulnerable to Typhoon Juan.

“What we’re concerned about is that there might be a spike in the prices of those commodities if the farmlands are hit. So that’s one of the things that we’re talking to the DTI about,” Carandang said after the meeting of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in Camp Aguinaldo.

In his report to the NDRRMC, Agriculture Undersecretary Antonio Fleta said that in Region 2, 157,958 hectares of rice crops, 25,585 hectares of corn crops, and 109 hectares of fishponds and fish cages were “vulnerable” to Typhoon Juan.

“Translated into palay production, the 157,958 [hectares]...will be around 600,000 MT of palay. In terms of our fishing, there are about 109 hectares of potential fishponds and cages that can be damaged by the typhoon, covering about P47 million worth of fingerlings and adult fish which are mostly tilapia,” Fleta said.

In her report, Trade Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya said the DTI head office has “alerted” its offices in the regions concerned to ensure that there is enough supply of basic goods in their areas, and to monitor prices.

Maglaya said the DTI will “intensify further our monitoring activities should there be a declaration of a state of calamity” especially as these areas would be automatically subject to price control.

“We will also make sure that there will be no disruption in supply so as to prevent any shortages in these areas....we will keep a close tab over inventory levels of all the retail outlets and the groceries,” she said.

She also said the DTI will “keep track of the possible roadblocks, broken bridges, flooding and power outages just to make sure that the operations of retail outlets will be back to normal as soon as the typhoon leaves us.”

The department will also “keep watch over our SMEs, making sure that businesses as well the workforce are not affected,” she also said.

President Aquino was supposed to preside over the NDRRMC meeting but decided to concentrate on his other meeting—with the Anti-Poverty Cluster in Malacañang—which would have overlapped with the Camp Aguinaldo event, after being assured that all preparations were in place.

The President sent Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. in his place.

Ochoa said he would report to the President “that all the agencies that are members of the committee are already in hand and well prepared for any eventuality.”

He said that compared to Typhoon Basyang, the government was “better prepared now” and that “everybody is conscious of their jobs, they are well equipped, and all the support of the national government is there.”

Carandang said: “As you can see, all the preparations are in place. There is no need for his [Mr. Aquino’s] presence here. If ever there are questions, then that would have been already relayed through Secretary Ochoa. So he felt that he had to prioritize the other meeting.”

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the President’s decision not to be at the meeting reflects his confidence in the preparations of government agencies concerned, and was made upon the advice of Gazmin.