Rough Cuts: Is DA’S Pinol clearing his way out?

The present crisis in the supply of rice, the series of disasters that hit the country, and the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law appear to have brought out the worst in the greedy businessmen from all levels.

That is, from the smallest ambulant vendors to the swivel chair-sitting business executives.

Last Saturday we had the chance of acting the role of the woman of the house. She had a very important appointment so we volunteered to do the marketing for the family’s weekly kitchen requirements.

We were shocked to find out that vegetables sourced from Marilog which cost P50 per kilo now sell in the market between P70 to P90 a kilo. We also noticed that the same is true in other farm products. The situation is also the same in wet market items. Fish species that were sold between P150 to P170 per kilo less than a month ago are now sold at between P200 to P220 per kilo. The classy varieties like malasugi, lapu-lapu, tuna, and talakitok used to be priced at between P285 to P350 per kilo some two months ago are now sold at between P385 to P450 a kilo, depending on the weather condition.

We tried to average the hike in vegetable prices at P30 per kilo and we were aghast to know that the increase unilaterally imposed by even the so-called lowly market vendors is 60 percent per kilo on most vegetables.

On fish and other sea products we average the price hike at P80. Hence, the increase per kilo is roughly about 29 percent from its price per kilo some two months back.

And how much are the big-time agricultural products traders are buying in the farm areas? Instead of offering to buy at higher price they are reducing their buying offer. The reason given is that gas prices are shooting up; taxes on merchandise are increased; the agricultural products must be shipped to Luzon where supply is acute due to the series of floods that are ravaging almost the entire of the northern Philippine island mass.

One such product the price per kilo of which continues to dip since early this year is coconut. Of late the price per kilo of husked coconut was already down to P4 kilos picked up from the farm. But when one buys processed coconut by-products like frying oil, desiccated coco meat, and even fresh coconut water, prices are up to neck high.

When vendors are asked why such high prices the reason usually given is that the raw materials are acquired from the farms at exorbitant costs.

Wow, that is how far the greedy businessmen at all levels would go just to accumulate as much money as possible even if it would mean at the expense of the consuming public.

And right here in Davao City it is hard to imagine how the big-time agricultural product traders prefer satisfying first the Luzon requirement leaving local consumers to suffer the high cost brought about by the depletion of the supplies they deserve first and foremost.

With this scheme, it becomes even more overt that the intention of farm products businessmen to ship the bigger bulk of their merchandise to satisfy the growing demand in the flood affected Luzon is nothing else but the desire for humongous profits.

Meanwhile, the farmers suffer the brunt of very low farm gate acquisition offer of the agricultural farm traders.

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Now the top officials of the different agencies of government in the Duterte administration are in their hottest blame game on whose department the current rice supply crisis should be attributed to.
One of the Duterte administration’s economic managers, Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, is putting the blame on the Department of Agriculture (DA) headed by Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Pinol.

According to Pernia, the DA has not been doing much to prevent the deterioration of the supply of rice in the market.

Pinol did not take charge sitting down. He quickly throws back the blame not only to Pernia but to the Duterte government itself. According to Pinol, without directly denying the Planning Secretary’s allegations, the reason why the DA is unable to “do much” to prevent the rice supply crisis and the standstill in the agriculture production is the government’s failure to provide enough funds for projects intended to enhance farmers’ productivity.

We are not certain if Pinol was only carried away by his disgust over Pernia’s putting the blame on his agency. But it was apparent he seemed to have broadened his reaction by lumping the entire Duterte government. We are not also sure if the Secretary is aware of the potential repercussion of his words.

What is certain, however, is that the way he coined his statement might have unnecessarily touched the sensitivity not only of the members of the Duterte administration’s economic team but that of the President himself.

Thus, Pinol might have a lot of explaining to do. Unless he has sensed that he is on his way out.

Posted in Opinion