“We are a nation in a hurry,” says Danilo Fausto, president of the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) during the organization’s monthly roundtable.
He was referring to the warning issued in May of this year of a predicted food shortage by the last quarter of 2022, one whose effects are beginning to be felt as early as now. That is something that consumers will face in addition to the annual price increase brought about by the holiday season, rising inflation, and the weakening peso.
Fausto revealed that the organization has written the President, who is also the country’s Secretary of Agriculture, a letter detailing their requests. The letter was sent through the office of Agriculture Undersecretary Domingo Panganiban, which include:
Stopping the importation of chicken. “…from January to July, 416,000 MT of chicken was given a permit for import, which represents 34% of the projected production for chicken,” he said, adding that the country’s chicken production is enough to cover 97-99% of local demand. “Because of that, some of our colleagues have now held back on loading chicken in their poultries. Some of them [have] already closed [to] wait for better time, and this, as you know, will kill the industry.”
Protect the seaweed industry. “Next year, there is a review… in the US removing carrageenan as an organic raw material,” Fausto shared. “…52% of the market in the US is coming from us and Europe, about 80%, and 72% of our seaweed is processed in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao)and the Zamboanga peninsula. The poorest of the poor of our fellow Filipinos. And if we lose that export market in the US, if we [do] not protect our seaweed [industry].., our friends from the ARMM will lose their livelihood.”
Examine salt and sardines. Fausto reiterated the request for a bill to help the salt industry, which currently only supplies about 3% of the archipelago’s needs, with the rest being imported because of the Act for Salt Iodization Nationwide (ASIN Law), which requires all salt produced and sold in the country be iodized. Another request is to assist the canned sardines industry, which has predicted a shortage if they do not catch enough before the fishing season closes. Canners are requesting permission from coastal LGUs to review the boundaries for commercial fishing vessels, as well as to buy sardines that meet their quality from the small fishermen who are allowed to fish closer to shore, where some of the fish can be found. More about this in the next column.
When asked about the organization’s thoughts on the President’s first 100 days in office, Fausto said, “He has a lot of challenges and a lot of things to do and… we are trying to do what we can to support him and give him some suggestions because I know he’s very busy because it’s the entire country, not only agriculture… I hope that next year, we’ll be able to [start to] recover because funds will now be coming in with the new budget. And I hope that the… DA will be ready to use this and download this to the appropriate projects to help our production.”
He added in Taglish, “We have to understand [circumstances] because… when the President started his office, the treasury had been depleted, and he’s doing the best that he can to really go through this. Everything is happening at the same time abroad, and these are things he can’t control.”
He also addressed the expected rise in prices during the holiday season: “I don’t think prices [of sugar and other items] will go down because Christmas is coming and prices normally rise during [the holidays]. Watch out for a shortage in food like sardines… pork, chicken, rice.”
He expressed support for the President and the DA in addressing the industry’s concerns amid the looming food crisis. “It’s different since the President is the Secretary of Agriculture. Everything moves.”