Economic managers have come up with solution to high inflation: Import more rice, fish, sugar
The government’s Economic Development Cluster on Wednesday approved several measures to ensure adequate food supply in the country amid surging inflation, which rose to 6.4 percent in August 2018.
“A committed effort from government in the agriculture sector to boost supply of key products and introduce policy reforms will bring down prices for all Filipino families,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said, reading the cluster’s joint statement.
For one, some 4.6 million sacks of rice available in the warehouses of the National Food Authority (NFA) should immediately be released nationwide.
Of the total, 2.7 million sacks will be allocated for Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-tawi, which are currently experiencing rice shortage.
He said about two million sacks of rice that were previously contracted will be delivered by end-September and the supply would be boosted by the five million sacks arriving by October and another five million early next year.
“The economic managers have agreed to recommend to the President the issuance of a directive to further simplify and streamline the licensing procedures for rice imports of the NFA,” the statement said.
“Moreover, we urge the Senate to immediately pass the Rice Tariffication Bill within the month,” it said.
Other measures approved during the meeting include the replicating of issuance of certificates of necessity to allow imports to be distributed in the wet markets in Metro Manila and to the other markets of the country, establishment of a monitoring team to be composed of representatives from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), NFA, Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and farmer that will do surveillance of rice from ports to NFA warehouses and retail outlets; reduction of gap between the farm gate and retail prices of chicken by convening poultry producers and setting up of public markets where producers can sell directly to consumers.
The statement said “DA will provide cold storage for this purpose.”
Also, importation of sugar will be opened by the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) “to direct users to moderate costs to consumers.”
The statement said prices of vegetables is seen to go down once the typhoon season ends and prices of food is seen to get a breather from its current high levels since the “Bureau of Customs will prioritize the release of essential food items in the ports.”
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo, during the same briefing, said that once these measures are put in place inflation is likely to decelerate.
“It’s very difficult to quantify (the impact of these on inflation) at this point but if these measures will be implemented this September the August inflation of 6.4 percent could have peaked,” he said.
The central bank executive said the NFA’s Security Services and Investigation Department has received “interesting” reports last August alone that may indicate the reasons for current rice supply issues.
He said several complaints were received and these include overpricing of NFA rice, with 17 cases; rebagging or resacking of NFA rice from NFA to commercial, 15 cases; alleged switching from NFA to commercial rice, six cases; no available NFA rice, 47 cases.
Ideally, NFA’s rice buffer should be equivalent to 15 days of the nationwide requirement on normal days and 30 days on lean months, he said.
He said NFA’s supply accounts for only five percent of total supply while supply from commercial sources and farms accounts for the larger part. (PNA)