ECONOMIC INTELLIGENCE UNIT FORMED: Gov’t to go after profiteers, hoarders

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    Scene at a wet market. (PHOTO BY RHOY COBILLA)

    Government will crack down on hoarders, price manipulators and unscrupulous traders who they suspect are responsible for the unreasonable increases in the prices of food products.

    Ramon Lopez, secretary of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said the Inter-Agency Task Force-Food Security Group in a meeting last week agreed to tap the Department of Interior and Local Government, National Security Agency, the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation in conducting intelligence work, inspection of warehouses and audit receipts of traders.

    Lopez said a sub task group on economic intelligence has been formed under the task force.

    “We need economic intelligence… beyond what we see in the market … to see what is happening in between (farmers and retailers). Goods experience various transfers (so we have to know) who charge the most and where the possible supplies are to avoid artificial shortages. The task group will hold investigations and visits on warehouses to inspect if hoarding and profiteering are happening,” Lopez said in a virtual briefing yesterday.

    He said the Department of Agriculture will be allotted with new funds for intelligence work.

    “We are not stopping traders from earning but (we want) to prevent them from abusing the public,” he said.

    Lopez warned profiteering is meted with fines and imprisonment.

    He said while these are challenging times for agriculture products due to the recent string of typhoons, there are too many layers of traders in between the supply chain that unnecessarily add to the cost of food.

    “Farm gate prices admittedly have risen but the increase between farmgate prices to retail is much higher than what we expect,” Lopez said.

    “We need to see where the artificial shortage is, if there is hoarding and profiteering. We will get the results of the ongoing review in the near future,” he added.

    The DTI for example has issued 1,070 letters of inquiry against violators of the suggested retail price scheme of the agency. Thirty-one prospered to show-cause orders, 274 were found with violations and 16 were filed with formal charges.

    Date from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed as of January 9, retail prices of pork kasim is at a high of P400 per kilogram (kg) and a low of P320 per kg. for a prevailing price of P350 per kg while pork liempo’s high and prevailing price is both at P400 per kg but at a low of P350 per kg.

    Beef rump is at a high of P480 per kg, a low of P350 per kg and prevailing at P420 per kg as beef brisket is at a high of P400 per kg, a low of P300 per kg and prevailing at P360 per kg.

    Compared to other types of meat, the cost of chicken is stable at a high P200 per kg with a low of P160 per kg and prevailing at P180 per kg.

    Bangus is also at a high of P220 per kg with a low of P120 per kg and prevailing at P200 per kg while tilapia is steady at a high of P160 per kg. and a low of P110 per kg and prevailing at P130 per kg.

    Among monitored fish products for the period, galunggong and alumahan had the highest costs.

    Galunggong is at a high of P300 per kg and a low of P220 per kg while prevailing at P240 per kg as alumahan reached a high of P400 per kg and a low of P240 per kg and prevailing at P360 per kg.

    For vegetables, scorpio cabbage is at a high of P200 per kg and a low of P120 per kg prevailing at P150 per kg while carrots reached a high of P160 per kg and low of P75 per kg prevailing at P120 per kg.

    Other commonly used vegetables such as tomato, red onion and eggplant also recorded high prices above the P200 per kg range.

    Tomato is at a high of P200 per kg and a low of P100 per kg prevailing at P140 per kg while red onion is at a high of P210 per kg and a low of P90 per kg and prevailing at P110 per kg as eggplant reached a high of P200 per kg and a low of P130 per kg and prevailing at P170 per kg.

    Potato is currently at a high of P150 per kg and a low of P80 per kg prevailing at P120 per kg as native pechay is at a high of P150 per kg and a low of P60 per kg and prevailing at P80 per kg/. (With I. Isip)