Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday said the Department of Agriculture (DA) should expand the supply of domestic chicken amid the rising prices of pork in the market.
Hontiveros made the call as pork prices notably increased almost twice as much compared to pre-pandemic levels and have been the immediate trigger of widening concerns over hunger.
“Finding a replacement and ensuring the continuous supply of chicken will ‘hit two birds with one stone’,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“Aside from providing an alternative to pork, chicken can also provide families with a source of income as it is a quick-start and fast-gestating business like vegetable production,” she stressed.
The senator said the DA should amplify its support for new clusters of chicken producers to strengthen domestic poultry production.
These clusters, she said, has huge potential because they mimic the efficiency advantage of large poultry producers.
“Even if they are considered small and medium scale, they have common facilities and they help out in money and labor. They help each other if the other one cannot deliver,” she pointed out.
Hontiveros also said the DA should guide poultry producers from organization, bargaining for a fair share of profit, to growing the insurance markets to protect them against the risks of the business.
“There is no shortage of labor, capital, technology and land. In fact, lands previously devoted to rice can now be allocated to the poultry sector,” she noted.
She pointed out there are 20 to 30 provinces in Mimaropa, Cagayan Valley, Southern Mindanao and Central Luzon that were left idle after some farmers stopped planting rice.
“They can use that land for feeds and poultry production,” she said.
“The government, in coordination with the private sector, should be able to provide support every step of the way,” she said, adding that constraints in poultry raising—such as the high cost of feeds—must be promptly addressed through the lowering of tariffs on imported feeds.
Hontiveros warned the government that inability to respond to the escalating price of food commodities could lead to a deadly combination of health and hunger crisis that could further hamper the country’s economic recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Aside from the COVID-19, we are in danger of getting hit by a pandemic of hunger. There’s no vaccine for hunger. A wider production of food is one of the solutions we can only think of to ensure there is food on the table of every Filipino family,” the lawmaker said.