February 2, 2023

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“Manila must reduce waste to improve local food supply”

The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc. (AmCham) said the government should consider reducing food waste given the rise in commodity prices.

Chris Ilagan, co-chair of AmCham’s agribusiness committee, said reducing food waste would help bring down high food prices and increase domestic supplies.

“For example, we know that food waste, which is estimated to be a third of all food production, is certainly an area that I think we need to examine, especially during this time of supply shortages and oversupply,” Ilagan said in a television interview last Tuesday.

“They say about 40 percent of that 33 percent is actually lost in the post-harvest and processing phase. These are low hanging fruits, so to speak. The food is already produced and it’s just a matter of finding a way to maximize its use.”

Last Monday, President of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), George T. Barcelon, expressed his concern about high food prices and urged the government to address it immediately given the impact on inflation.

“What is worrying is that the government is finding solutions to high food prices, which has fueled calls for large wage adjustments that could lead to even higher inflation,” Barcelon said in a Viber message sent to reporters on Monday.

He said it was a “vicious circle” that could stunt business and “negatively affect” the competitiveness of the export sector. Therefore, said Barcelon, “the outlook for both job creation and sustainability could face headwinds for the year.”

Barcelona made the statement after onion prices skyrocketed to as much as 700 pesetas per kilogram last month.

In a statement by the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc., Ramon Clarete was quoted as saying that the “tradability” of the Philippines’ agri-food sector has declined.

Clarete said during an E-Forum on food security that low productivity and high population growth have pressured the country to turn to food imports, including rice, making it vulnerable to international trade disruptions.

To mitigate disruptions in the “new normal”, trade in perishable goods in particular needs to be improved as the storage and delivery of these products, which require cold chains and air freight, have been severely impacted during the pandemic.

consolidation

Ilagan said AmCham has been pushing for other measures, such as land consolidation, to improve the country’s food security. He noted that the Ministry of Agriculture is now working on land consolidation and is trying to do this through cooperatives.

To aid the effort, Ilagan said the size of the land holdings needs to be expanded.

“From the current 5 hectare limit today to 24 hectares, which can also be supplemented by other measures such as tolerating debts of the beneficiaries of the agricultural reform. We know there is already legislation in Congress today that is pushing for this and freeing up the markets in the agricultural sector so that those lands can move from beneficiaries of agrarian reform into the hands of those who are more productive in terms of agricultural production.”