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Philippine To Prioritize Agriculture To Reduce Inflation

This vibrant metropolis on the west coast of peninsular Malaysia is fast becoming a sought-after destination for international travel. Its futuristic skyscrapers and colonial architecture are starkly juxtaposed for a contrasting effect that attracted more than 26 million tourists in 2019, with the Philippines as the ninth biggest origin country for arrivals. Under newly installed Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, public health and humane economic growth are the top priorities of his coalition government.

Among the recent Filipino visitors to Malaysia were the winners of the 14th Bright Leaf Agriculture Journalism Awards bestowed in 2021 by PMFTC Inc., the joint venture of Philip Morris International and the LT Group. These included journalists and photojournalists from various national and regional media outfits, namely (in alphabetical order): Jasper Arcalas, Frank Cimatu, Willie Lomibao, Rose Malekchan, Erwin Mascariñas, Vina Medenilla, Karl Ocampo, Cai Ordinario, and Maureen Simeon.

Accompanying them were PMFTC officers Didet Danguilan and Corinne Renes as well as Palanca Hall of Fame awardee Alfred Yuson and digital news portal editor Kristine Bersamina. They toured Kuala Lumpur’s main attractions such as historic Merdeka Square, iconic Petronas Twin Towers, and the Art Deco-style Pasar Seni Central Market.

Outside the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, they visited Malaysia’s administrative capital Putrajaya and the IT-themed city of Cyberjaya in Selangor – both of which form part of the Multimedia Super Corridor, a flagship project of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. This was followed by a day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Malacca, which was formerly part of the Portuguese, Dutch, and British empires.

Malacca is the capital city of Melaka, Malaysia’s smallest state of which a portion is still predominantly agricultural. Melaka is also the first state to partner with the University of Putra Malaysia in developing urban agriculture as an alternative for a sustainable township that can generate its own agricultural produce.

Food security is a serious concern in Malaysia, which does not produce enough food for its 32 million population. Its agriculture sector faces structural issues related to labor shortages, low productivity, and uncertainty over farm ownership. Recently, Melaka and seven other Malaysian states were hit by outbreaks of the African swine fever (ASF) that causes hemorrhagic fever in domestic pigs and wild boars with a mortality rate of 100%.

As more families entered the Malaysian middle class in the 1990s, pig farms became industrialized and the swine business is now the second largest livestock industry in the country worth about US$1 billion. But it is being threatened by the ASF virus that has turned into a major crisis in several regions across Asia, according to the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health.

The Philippines has not been spared by the ASF crisis. Based on the latest data from the Department of Agriculture (DA), the cumulative number of affected areas since the virus broke out in our archipelago starting 2019 has reached 4,308 barangays in 788 municipalities across 59 provinces in 15 regions. The DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) said there are still active cases in seven regions to date.

Industry players noted that President and Agriculture Secretary Ferdinand Marcos Jr. recently assured the public that the DA would take decisive steps to put an end to bird flu that decimated the poultry industry. They hope Malacañang would have the same resolve in ending the ASF problem soon through the vaccination of local hogs, which can actually be fast-tracked by the BAI using the ASF live vaccine developed and produced by AVAC Vietnam Co. Ltd., the first veterinary vaccine factory certified under the World Health Organization’s good manufacturing practices program.

Safety and efficacy trials using the AVAC vaccine are already being conducted in four local farms under the BAI’s supervision. These trials are due to be completed by April 2023, and a nationwide inoculation drive will be the most effective government approach to help ASF-hit hog raisers recover their capability to ensure sufficient supply.

To get an idea how spikes in pork prices have jacked up inflation in the past, meat accounted for about 5% of overall inflation in the quarter-century from 1995 to 2020. However, when the price of meat soared in the first quarter of 2021, it became the no. 1 contributor to overall inflation at almost 20% or equivalent to 1.3 percentage points.

Eradicating ASF will prevent supply shortfalls in the future that could trigger price spirals and the consequent higher inflation rate. This would stop the hemorrhaging of the swine industry where the virus’ outbreaks have resulted in the closure of commercial pig farms, loss of livelihood among backyard hog raisers, and reduction in revenues of allied industries with an estimated economic value of some P100 billion annually.

Source: https://mb.com.ph/2023/02/21/prioritizing-agriculture-to-tame-inflation/

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