Albay Rep. Joey Salceda on Sunday warned that the price of bread will go up as Russia’s war in Ukraine drags on, and called for ways to keep “everyman’s breakfast” affordable.
Salceda, committee on ways and means chairman, said the price of the average “Pinoy Tasty” loaf of bread could go up by P2.30 in the coming weeks as Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s largest wheat producers.
“The oil price impact on the price of loaf at around $110 per barrel of crude is around P0.40, while wheat has increased $100 per ton since Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. I expect a transmission of around P1.90 per loaf over the coming weeks once milled wheat stocks begin to diminish and we start milling imports at higher prices,” he said.
“Because this is the everyman’s breakfast, and this conflict appears to have dire nutritional consequences on the average Filipino. The oil price is already affecting some price transmission on other goods, especially agricultural produce and fish,” he added.
He said he expects 1.3 million Filipinos to become poorer as a result of higher oil prices this year.
“Hunger may become more pervasive too, if wheat price increases do not see some abatement over the coming weeks,” he said.
“By the looks of it, even if Russia somehow withdraws, or some compromise is achieved that allows farmers in Ukraine to plant wheat, supply chain issues will linger because sanctions on Russia will not disappear overnight,” he added.
As a mitigating measure, he said the country should begin to secure its orders from alternative sources, such as Canada and the United States of America.
He proposed three measures to mitigate the impact of the price increases on the Filipino diet and nutrition.
“First, I urge the Department of Health and the National Nutrition Council to direct the nutritional fortification of loaf bread, so that at the very least, if prices do increase, Filipino families will get nutritional value for money. Second, I am officially requesting the Department of Trade and Industry to ensure that prices do not increase beyond the price transmission due to higher input costs. Without intensive monitoring, price increases tend to overshoot actual input cost increases. We saw that during the first few months of the TRAIN Law, when even products without an oil or sugar component would increase in prices,” he said.
“Third, I am requesting the DOH and the local governments to work more closely to fully implement the country’s mandatory feeding programs. Although there are no face-to-face classes, that does not stop LGUs from utilizing 20 percent of their Special Education Fund under Section 7 of RA 11037 towards feeding programs for school-age children.
As we cannot implement these programs through schools, yet, we should be able to do them through barangays and day care centers instead,” he said.
“As I’ve warned earlier, the worst is yet to come about this conflict and its effect on Filipino families. The economy at large will be okay, I believe. We will still see good growth numbers. But the poor will suffer harder during this crisis, and we have a moral duty to make sure they don’t fall too hard through the cracks,” he said. “Relief to the severely distressed is a moral obligation for the government,” he said.
Last week, President Duterte said he was considering calling a special session of Congress to discuss a possible state of economic emergency and other recommendations of his Cabinet to mitigate the impact of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on the local economy.
Senators on Tuesday supported calls for a special session to declare such an emergency, although Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi – a member of Duterte’s economic team — said there is no need to do so yet, despite the ongoing war in Ukraine that has pushed oil prices to unprecedented levels.