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Farm industry seeks relief from NLEX toll hike to keep food prices in check

THE agriculture industry sought relief from a recent toll hike on the key highway leading to the north of the capital, arguing that food delivery trucks need to be allowed free passage to minimize the impact on food prices.

“Food deliveries especially perishable basic commodities (should be granted free passes)… mas maganda sana para minimal ang impact ng toll (it would be best if the toll hike’s impact is minimal),” Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura Executive Director Jayson H. Cainglet told BusinessWorld by phone.

He lobbied for the return of special lanes set up during the pandemic, during which food deliveries were not held up at checkpoints.

Mr. Cainglet said that the Department of Agriculture should also work with local government units to eliminate “arbitrary” fees being collected by municipalities.

If such fees are eliminated, “traders would not use them as an excuse to increase prices,” Mr. Cainglet said.

Food pass should be provided for truck deliveries of basic agricultural commodities to prevent possible price increases brought by toll hike adjustments imposed at the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), an industry official said.

The Toll Regulatory Board approved adjustments to the tolls collected by the NLEX starting June 15.

Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said that there might be a slight increase in transport costs based on the cargoes being transported.

“Northern and Central Luzon are major sources of vegetables and other crops/agricultural products such as rice, corn, fruits, and other agricultural products,” he said.

Federation of Free Farmers National Manager Raul Q. Montemayor said the cost increase per kilogram will be minimal as trucks can carry from 5,000 to 25,000 kilograms. The total increase for class 2 and 3 vehicles will be less than P100.

“The increase is only for NLEX and SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway). The problem is if traders use this as an excuse to jack up prices disproportionately,” he said in a Viber message.

Asis G. Perez, former director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and convenor of advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan, also said that the toll hike should not be a significant factor in any price increase.

“This should be used as a justification for an increase in price. What will increase the price is likely the unavailability of the commodity and increased demand,” Mr. Perez told BusinessWorld by phone. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera

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