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Neda warns of higher food prices

Supply seen at risk due to impact of inclement weather, lingering presence of African swine fever
By: - Reporter / @bendeveraINQ
/ 04:15 AM November 09, 2020

The Philippines is bracing for higher food prices amid an expected prolonged wet season and the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) has sought additional support for the agriculture sector.

“While inflation has been benign at 2.5 percent in October due to stable supply as well as weaker demand caused by COVID-19, upward inflationary pressures remain such as the adverse impact of inclement weather and the lingering presence of African swine fever in the country,” Neda said in a report last week.

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While citing that the Department of Agriculture (DA) had assured sufficient food supply—especially of rice and vegetables—until year’s end, Neda said “agricultural damage caused by the recent onslaught of typhoons and the occurrence of La Niña may put food supply at risk.”

Typhoon “Quinta” battered the country late in October while Typhoon “Rolly” inflicted billions of pesos in damage to agriculture last week.

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Neda noted that the weather agency Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration already flagged a possible “moderate-to-strong” La Niña seen persisting up to April next year.

“Three to seven tropical cyclones may enter or develop in the Philippine area of responsibility from November 2020 to April 2021. Moreover, the ongoing La Niña may further enhance the northeast monsoon or ‘amihan’, which can trigger flash floods and rain-induced landslides over susceptible areas,” Neda said.

Prolong the shelf life

As such, Neda said the government and the private sector must be encouraged to tap local producers in nearby provinces or regions to make up for the lost harvest in these disaster-stricken areas.

“To hasten the recovery of the agriculture sector, the government can fast-track the release of the DA’s quick response fund and other production support assistance such as the distribution of seeds, fingerlings, medicines and biologics, among others, to affected farmers and fisherfolk,” Neda said.

Also, Neda urged expediting the release of the yearly P10-billion rice competitiveness enhancement fund, “particularly its mechanization component, to help boost domestic rice productivity, improve competitiveness and facilitate the shift toward high-value crops.”

For Neda, a key strategy for food security during uncertain times was to prolong the shelf life of agricultural goods, which the agency said entailed jacking up investments not only in technology but also cold storage facilities and warehouses in strategic locations. INQ

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TAGS: food prices, National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), NEDA
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