Help farmers increase production to avoid food price spikes--solon

A pro-farmer congressman said he expects the P30-billion increase in this year's agriculture sector budget to translate to improved services for local farmers, which would in turn help keep food prices down.

Onions at a Quezon City supermarket (Ellson Quismorio/ MANILA BULLETIN)

AGRI Party-list Rep. Wilbert T. Lee said in a statement Friday, Jan. 13 that the agriculture sector received P174 billion for 2023—a 20.2 percent increase from its P144.8 billion budget last year.

“From this huge increase, we expect nothing less than improved services for farmers and fisherfolk, and for the agency to finally address long-standing problems in the agriculture sector,” Lee said.

“Kasama dito ang tulong para sa low production cost sa pamamagitan ng access sa murang abono at pesticides, farm equipment, gumaganang irigasyon at dagdag na post-harvest facilities tulad ng cold storage at transport facilities para maiwasan ang maraming nasasayang lalo na sa panahon ng kalamidad (This includes assistance to lower production costs, which includes access to cheap fertilizers and pesticides, farm equipment, working irrigation and additional post-harvest facilities like cold storage and transport facilities that would help reduce wastage especially during calamities)," the rookie solon noted.

According to Lee, P16.89 billion was alloted this year for post-harvest facilities and services, which is 40.6 percent higher than the previous year.

“Kung magagamit ang mas malaking pondong ito para tulungan ang agri workers na mapataas ang kanilang produksyon, hindi basta-basta kukulangin ng supply na dahilan ng pagtaas ng presyo sa merkado (If this bigger budget can be used to help agri workers increase their production, then we can avoid supply shortages that trigger price spikes in the market),” explained Lee, who hails from Sorsogon.

Lee was alluding to the soaring prices of onions, which now retail for higher prices than meat.

Last Dec. 28, 2022, it was reported that prices of red onions jumped to P720 per kilo, which was seven times more expensive than its P100 per kilo retail price in June of the same year as monitored by the Department of Agriculture (DA). Local white onions were sold as high as P600 per kilo.

The skyrocketing of prices is said to be attributed to low domestic production, which is a result of increasing production cost, lack of post-harvest facilities and rampant agricultural smuggling.

Earlier, Lee expressed his full support to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman and Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Salceda’s remarks that Congress, through an independent panel, will fight agri smugglers.