Crackdown vs 'heartless businessmen' readied

Crackdown vs 'heartless businessmen' readied

The retail prices of fish, poultry and vegetables have become so expensive that they are beyond acceptable, prompting the Department of Agriculture (DA) to crack down against profiteering and run after all those “heartless businessmen.”

Some prices have not gone down to how they were before Christmas, the DA noted on Friday, as the agency spotted huge discrepancies between the price of these products when sold in farms and when sold in the retail market.

For example, the average farmgate price of chicken is P77 per kilo, the DA said. However, this sells at a market price at P157 per kilo, marking a difference of P80, with more than 100 percent mark-up.

Imported galunggong or round scad, the DA said, is sold P200 per kilo in the retail market when its wholesale price ranges from P50 to P60 per kilo.

The local galunggong is even more expensive than pork, the DA said, since the poor man’s fish are now sold up to P280 per kilo, where as the retail price of pork ranges from P180 to P220 per kilo.

“Obviously, some traders and sellers refuse to reduce prices to pre-Christmas levels, and are taking advantage of the recent eruption of Taal Volcano,” said Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar.

Dar issued a department order last month, tasking all concerned officials and staff to regularly monitor the food supply and price situation, particularly of poultry, fish and vegetables.

Department Order No. 3 reiterated the agency’s powers as authorized under the Price Law, which was created to prevent and take action against those that manipulate prices of primary and basic commodities.

Violators of illegal price manipulation can be jailed for up to 15 years and slapped a fine of up to P2 million.

Under the Price Act, the DA is the main implementing agency in ensuring stability of prices with reference to agricultural crops, fish and other marine products, fresh meat, fresh poultry and dairy products, and fertilizers, among other farm inputs.

“With this latest Department issuance, we aim to protect the welfare of consumers, and farmers ans fisherfolk — who are themselves consumers,” the DA chief said.

“Thus, we warn unscrupulous and heartless businessmen, traders and retailers who take advantage of their countrymen. Rest assured that the guilty profiteers will not go unpunished in accordance with the law,” he said.