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Marcos vows to boost farm output to tame price gains

PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Wednesday said he is keeping his promise to boost the country’s food production to temper price gains.

Bringing down inflation “requires our success in increasing our production,” he told reporters on the sidelines of a Department of Agriculture (DA) event. “It’s really the answer.”

The president recalled how spiraling farm prices had driven Philippine inflation to a 14-year high in January.

He said helping local producers by giving them access to modern technologies and making their production more efficient would help cool price gains.

“Improving the technologies, helping our farmers at both ends of that value chain, there is an advantage because the farmers will make more money — because they are spending less, because they are more efficient,” he said. “At the same time, that price level will translate all the way to the consumer.”

Mr. Marcos Jr., 65, has been pushing for food self-sufficiency in a decidedly populist direction, a policy choice that he is well-placed to implement after appointing himself Agriculture secretary.

Economists have said supply bottlenecks that jack up prices remain unaddressed since he took office a year ago.

Since peaking at 8.7% in January, inflation has eased to 5.4% in June, the lowest since April 2022.

At the DA event, Mr. Marcos cited the “clear importation schedule” for sugar as one of the efforts his government had taken to bring down food prices.

In May, Mr. Marcos approved at least 150,000 metric tons of sugar imports, citing a possible supply shortage. Sugar prices had reached as much as P130 a kilo.

Mr. Marcos vowed to limit imports “as much as possible” early in his term, but that promise has yet to be fulfilled.

At the gathering of livestock and aquaculture players, Mr. Marcos cited the “urgent need” to revitalize the poultry sector “considering the problems that we face, particularly the effects of the African swine fever (ASF) and avian influenza.”

He touted the Integrated National Swine Production Initiatives for Recovery and Expansion, which he said has benefitted more than 430 farmers’ cooperatives and associations with more than 13,000 members and about 27,500 farmers.

“We are also happy to announce the completion of phase one of the safety and efficacy trials for the ASF vaccines,” he said. “The Philippine FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is on track to issue a certificate of product registration for these vaccines while phase two trials are under way.”

“This gives us great hope as we have been waiting for this for a very long time.”

Mr. Marcos said the vaccine is 80%, effective. “There is still a 20% that we need to look out for very carefully.”

He also said his government is making progress in the procurement of avian influenza vaccines, noting that the Bureau of Animal Industry has called on drugmakers to register their products with the FDA pending the rules on how to administer these.

Mr. Marcos said the Agriculture department would continue to partner with the academe and private sector to find solutions to diseases that continue to wreak havoc on the country’s livestock and poultry subsectors. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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