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Filipino farmers decry soaring prices of food and fuel

Onion is more expensive than meat due to a price hike and high production costs

Farmers join a protest march in the Philippine capital Manila on Jan. 25 to deplore the rise in prices of food and fuel in the country

Farmers join a protest march in the Philippine capital Manila on Jan. 25 to deplore the rise in prices of food and fuel in the country. (Photo: Peter Advincula) 

Published: January 28, 2023 04:40 AM GMT

Updated: January 28, 2023 04:50 AM GMT

About 120 Filipino farmers marched in the Philippine capital Manila on Jan. 25 to press the government for an end to their plight due to soaring food and fuel prices in the country.

Among the protesters, 32 walked about 80 kilometers from Pampanga province north of Manila and joined a demonstration in front of the Department of Agriculture in Manila.

The protest was organized by the Association of Peasants of Northern Philippines (APNP), a farmers’ group representing about 1,000 farmers in the northern provinces.  

The farmers demanded immediate government intervention to reduce the price of vegetables including onions and fuel.

They carried placards with their demands to the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who serves as the secretary of the Agriculture Department.

“During the campaign for the presidency, President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., promised that he would make sure the price of rice would drop to 20 pesos (US$.36) per kilo. But now, everything has become very expensive, the price of rice has soared to almost 70 pesos (US$1.27) per kilo,” farmer Nilo Deogracias told UCA News.

Deogracias said each farmer gets lower than the daily minimum wage of 600 pesos (US$10.90) and struggle to support their families.

“I still need to pay for my electric bills and the education of my children. Nothing is left… I have three children and I am not even sure if I can send them to college. I can only afford to send them until high school,” he added.

President Marcos said that he ordered for importing of rice and onions to solve soaring inflation, which now stands at 5.8 percent.

“The move [importation] will normalize the price of food in the market. Our farmers might take a hit but it is temporary, we need to make difficult choices,” Marcos told reporters on Jan. 26.

Marcos allowed the import of 21,060 metric tons of onions. Traders have been given until Jan. 27 to have all their shipments delivered to the country.

On Jan. 21, some 1,200 tons of onions entered the country, with about half cleared for distribution to markets or institutional buyers, according to the Bureau of Plant Industry.

According to the Philippine Information Agency, the price of onions surged in the Philippines to around 700 pesos (US$12.80) per kg in January, higher than one kg of meat and daily minimum wage.

One kilogram of chicken costs about 175 pesos, beef 400 pesos, and pork is sold at 380 pesos per kg.

The president also directed the department to expedite the entry of 64,050 tons of refined sugar via the minimum access volume mechanism in response to supply chain issues involving the commodity.

Marcos vowed to maintain a two-month buffer of sugar to lower the sweetener’s retail price and prevent a future shortage.

The farmers’ association, however, said they could not compete with the low prices of onions and sugar because of production costs.

“Importation is not the solution. We were not even consulted before the agriculture department made the decision. Thus, lower prices would actually kill our industry. What is important is to have a long-term plan,” Deogracias added.

The farmers have also decried the soaring price of fuel that added cost in the production and transportation of agricultural products.

“We need fuel in our tractors and in our trucks when we transport our produce. Fuel has become a very high-cost commodity but we need it,” Bulacan farmer Martin Cincua told UCA News.

The current diesel price is 65 pesos (US$1.18) per liter while the regular gasoline cost is 62 pesos (US$1.13), compared to 58 pesos (US$1.05) per liter for diesel and 50 pesos (US$.90) per liter of gasoline in 2022.

The Catholic Church’s social arm Caritas teamed up with Catholic foundations to buy local farmers’ produce in bulk to distribute vegetables at cheaper prices in local markets like in the Diocese of Sorsogon and the Archdiocese of Dagupan in Pangasinan province.

“We have signed an agreement with them (northern farmers) that we will purchase tons of onions from them, then we will sell them in the local market. There is very little margin for profit but at least it supports the farmers,” Caritas treasurer Father Joseph Layres told UCA News.

Jesuit-run Tanging Yaman Foundation has also begun selling onions and sugar at half of their running market price, especially in poorer communities in the country’s capital, according to Jesuit Father Manoling Francisco, the foundation’s chairman.

The Philippines is a largely agricultural country with most of the rural population relying on agricultural activities for a livelihood.

Most of the nation’s estimated 114 million people live in rural areas, according to government data. About 36 percent of the total employed population is engaged in the agricultural sector.  


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