DESPITE a prospective resolution on their supply woes, sardine canners will not rescind their P3-price increase petition as the industry continues to reel from rising production costs due to weakening of the Philippine peso.
Canned Sardines Association of the Philippines (CSAP) Executive Director Francisco Buencamino said the government’s latest intervention on addressing the industry’s supply problems is only a part of the entire production woes faced by canners.
Buencamino explained that the petition to increase the suggested retail price (SRP) for canned sardine by P3 was filed by CSAP in July, months before the group warned of a “looming” raw material shortage in the latter part of the year.
“The P3 [proposed increase] is a very small portion of the finished canned prices. That is very small despite the fact that we have maintained our prices for two years now,” Buencamino told reporters in an interview on Monday.
The prevailing price for a 155-gram canned sardines in tomato sauce, based on the government’s SRP as of August 12, ranges from a low of P13.25 to a high of P19.58.
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) earlier announced that it is closely scrutinizing the price increase petitions filed by various food manufacturers, such as sardine canners.
CSAP explained that their petition to increase canned sardines prices was driven by rising cost of materials like imported tin cans and tomato paste, as well as fuel due to the weakening of peso and the consequences of the Ukraine-Russia war.
CSAP signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) that would allow municipal fishermen associations or cooperatives to directly supply sardines to sardine canners.
The MOA covers the months between September and February, effectively including the closed fishing season for sardines from December 1 to February 28.
Under the MOA, BFAR shall provide P8.5 million worth of interventions to identified eligible municipal fishermen associations and cooperatives that could meet the supply technicalities and requirements of sardine canners.
The MOA stipulated that BFAR will identify fish landing states wherein the consolidation of raw materials shall take place. BFAR shall also provide post-harvest support to municipal fishermen such as ice-making machines and fish containers in the landing sites.
BFAR, an attached bureau of the Department of Agriculture, will also subsidize the transport of consolidated sardine supply from fish landing sites directly to the canneries. Lastly, BFAR will also conduct capacity building on food safety and traceability requirements for the identified municipal fisherfolk associations.
The MOA is the joint response of the government and the private sector to the issue of continuous supply of raw materials to sardine canners, especially during the closed fishing season.
During the closed fishing season, commercial fishing vessels are not allowed to catch fish to allow spawning and restocking. However, municipal fishers are allowed to continue operations, leaving them the most viable option to supply the requirements of sardine canners.
Under the MOA, CSAP will issue the purchase order bearing the volume and quality of sardines that the municipal fisherfolk association must comply with. The MOA stipulated that CSAP shall ensure “fair pricing” in their transactions with municipal fisherfolk associations.
“The DA-BFAR, being at the forefront of fisheries governance in the country, is committed to ensuring sustainability of the sardine fishery while giving importance to preserving and conserving our marine environment and aquatic resources,” BFAR OIC-Director Demosthenes R. Escoto said.
CSAP President Benjamin A. Sy said the MOA will uplift the livelihood of municipal fisherfolk while ensuring the employment of thousands of factory workers during the three-month fishing ban.
CSAP estimated it needs at least 72 million kilograms of sardines from now until the end of the closed fishing season on February 28.