Agri Rep. Wilbert T. Lee on Friday underscored the need to urgently address the lack of post-harvest facilities that could have contributed to low local production and soaring food prices.
Lee renewed his call for additional post-harvest facilities in response to the remarks of Ramon Silverio, chairman of the Kaakibat Provincial Cooperative Council, during the briefing of
the House Committee on Agriculture and Food on the state of the country’s onion industry last Jan. 25.
Silverio called for more government support, particularly in the area of marketing the products.
In last year’s budget deliberation, Lee pointed out that not enough agricultural products reach the market due to extremely high post-harvest losses and lack of post-harvest facilities. He also
reiterated the need to restrategize the country’s agriculture value chain to ensure that products have a direct link to markets and consumers.
“The government must improve and facilitate farm-to-market linkages and provide additional support to post-harvest facilities,” Lee said.
Under the 2023 national budget, P48.23 billion was allocated for pre-harvest activities while P17.14 billion was alloted for post-harvest facilities and services. A big chunk of the budget for
post-harvest facilities this year will be implemented by the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech).
According to Lee, he personally met and talked to PhilMech Director Dr. Dionisio Alvindia during last year’s budget briefing and in several occasions to reiterate the need to expediously provide more support to post-harvest facilities, to which the latter agreed and committed to implement.
Policy thinktank Infrawatch PH meanwhile suggested the government and private sector to jointly build an online platform to enable agricultural producers to accurately reflect their farmgate prices and sell to the open market while allowing buyers to purchase agricultural goods at the best prices.
Infrawatch PH convenor and former legislator Teddy Ridon made the call, saying with rising prices on almost every essential agricultural commodity, government can help the public cope with the high prices of vegetables, rice, dairy and other products while producers are forced to sell their goods for a pittance.
Ridon said an online platform will aggregate producers and buyers seeking real alternatives to the opportunistic methods of agricultural traders.
Ridon said an open digital platform will keep all actors within the agricultural supply chain honest with their prices.
Ridon said an online platform will force middlemen to get paid only for their logistical services and not on the price difference between farmgate and market prices.
“With an online platform, government will be able to disrupt the incumbents in the agricultural goods sector in order to push the public good. In the transport sector, Uber as a digital platform remains the most important case study on how a digital platform was able to disrupt the taxi services business across the globe.
Government can do the same in the agricultural sector, as similar to taxi services, creating a direct link between supply and demand affords better services and prices for all market players.”
While an open market through a digital platform cannot guarantee low prices at all times, the former congressman said it can guarantee reasonable prices for both producers and buyers.
“By breaking the backs of unscrupulous middlemen, we will be able to raise the dignity of farmers and farmworkers who should be paid reasonably for working on the land. With a digital platform, we will be able to make sure that the public can allocate more resources to buy more food and other essentials due to better prices of agricultural goods.