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Group demands price freeze on meat, other agri goods

A consumer group has called on the Department of Agriculture to issue a price freeze on farm products, especially meat, to give buyers a reprieve from rising food prices.

The Samahan at Ugnayan ng mga Konsyumer para sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan (Suki) asked the DA to slap a price freeze on agricultural items to avert further increases on their retail cost. The group lamented, in particular, the price per kilogram of pork at P400, as well as chicken at P170, galunggong and bangus at P180 and tilapia at P120.

Suki Spokesman Reginald S. Vallejos said in a statement last Friday that consumers are now left with no alternatives in the face of simultaneous price hikes on meat products and even vegetables.

He reminded the government millions of workers have lost their jobs to the Covid-19 lockdowns, and low-income families may find it difficult to keep up with the price surges on food products. In October the Philippine Statistics Authority reported some 3.8 million Filipinos are unemployed in a period when the economy has sunk into recession.

“We are forced to spend even while our wages are not improving,” Vallejos said.

Inflation last December jumped to 3.5 percent, from 2.5 percent during the same period in 2019, to mark the highest rate recorded since March of 2019. Vallejos said wages have remained the same in Metro Manila since 2018, and its value has deteriorated from all the price spikes to a little over P434, citing estimates from think tank Ibon Foundation.

When asked how long the price freeze must be in place, Vallejos said three months may be enough for consumers to manage their finances in the “new normal.”

Last Friday Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar announced the DA’s move to control the prices of pork products in Metro Manila. He said he submitted a proposal to President Duterte to hand down a price ceiling of P270 on kasim and P300 on liempo for 60 days.

The Philippines is struggling to contain the spread of the African swine fever that has claimed the lives of millions of hogs and, in turn, reduced the supply of pork.

Aside from imposing a price freeze, Suki called on policy-makers and public utility distributors to extend the deadline for paying the dues accumulated at the height of the lockdowns. Similar to the price freeze, a moratorium on electricity and water fees should be granted to consumers for at least three months, Vallejos said.

The Suki chief added the group favored the decisions of Maynilad and Manila Water to hold off any rate hikes this year, and appealed to the Villar-owned PrimeWater to commit the same.

Last November Maynilad and Manila Water said they are deferring rate increases scheduled for this year. The Metro Manila water concessionaires stated they made this decision in response to the government’s appeal for a status quo to mitigate Covid-19 pandemic’s impact especially on the poor.

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