If it’s any consolation, hindi tayo nag-iisa.
We complain about the price of eggs, which used to be cheap source of protein for many Filipinos, especially children going to school in the morning.
Well, in Taiwan, as in the US of A, the price of eggs has also gone through the roof.
In fact, in Taiwan, it has become a political issue.
Foxconn chairman, Terry Gou, whose firm manufactures Apple products, and who is a possible 2024 presidential contender, reminded the present DPP government of Tsai Ing-wen that “the people want a government that solves problems, not a government that explains them”.
This, after Council of Agriculture chief Chen Chi-Chung of the ruling party apologized to the public for shortages in the food staple, explaining because eggs are a “biological problem, it is impossible to ramp up production the way it can be done in manufacturing”.
The retail price of eggs is now NT$6 per piece, which is around PhP10, just a bit higher than in Metro Manila. But minimum wage in Taiwan is about 40,000 pesos per month.
Ours is much, much lower than that.
“In Taiwan, egg-laying hens are procured from feedlots where they are raised for two to three months,” Minister Chen explained, and “feedlots get their chickens from breeding farms, which in turn import chickens from the US to replenish their flocks.”
Now there is also an egg supply problem in the US, which is a vital part of the supply chain in Taiwan, thus the domestic egg shortage.
Avian flu has struck poultries from the US to Europe, Japan and South Korea plus of course, our agriculturally challenged land.
But Taiwanese authorities are confident the shortage will ease come the second quarter of this year.
One solution Taiwan has done is to order the importation of 5 million eggs from Australia, to arrive by the end of March.
That’s going to be quite expensive, given the special handling eggs need when shipped, on top of higher logistics cost.
But the Taiwanese government can absorb the added costs, so long as people are fed their daily egg nutrients. I doubt if we can.
I wonder how much my favorite radish omelet now costs at my favorite Shin-yeh restaurant in Taipei. It is comfort food my mother used to prepare here for us, but Shin-yeh’s omelet is, as the French would say, non pareil.
There was a time when San Isidro in Nueva Ecija was the top supplier of eggs in Metro Manila, just as Cebu province has Bantayan island as its egg purveyor.
Now it is the town of San Jose in Batangas which has become the egg capital of NCR.
The poultry growers there used to suffer a lot of breakages transporting eggs from barrios to the main highway that leads to the metropolis.
A simple solution was done by Sen. Ralph Recto of neighboring Lipa City. He had every road in San Jose leading to the poultry farms cemented. No “lubak,” no “bugok.”
The economy of San Jose boomed, thanks to eggs and senator, now back to being congressman, Ralph Recto.
Deputy Speaker Ralph wonders why if Customs personnel can spot and apprehend high-priced onions in the bag of airline crew, the Bureau of Customs cannot detect smuggled sugar or vegetable carrying ships when the volume occupies space “as big as malls.”
Oo nga naman. The reason, as everyone and his mother knows, is obvious. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil is the motto of most BOC personnel.
Why not use tracking technology, Recto asks?
At present, the BOC employs an Electronic Tracking of Containerized Cargo or e-TRACC System in which a container is armed with a GPS tracker to monitor its movement from ship discharge to its intended destination.
The objective is to prevent the container’s diversion during transit to other customs territories and facilities.
Maybe it is an offshoot of the time when PNoy’s BOC diverted hundreds of containers from the Port of Manila to Batangas, where the contraband was unloaded.
“Kung papabili ka ng rice meal sa GrabFood o Food Panda, nasusundan mo takbo ng courier sa phone, ito pa kayang barko na may kargang 50,000 sako na bigas,” Recto said.
When I headed the NFA, I wanted to tag all our rice sacks with RFIDs, the movement of which can be tracked by central office computers.
But the cost was uneconomical because the technology was premised on huge volumes of rice, such as those the GMA government imported, which was in the vicinity of 2 million tons (that’s 40 million bags) per year.
I reduced government imports to 200,000 tons, or a tenth of the NFA’s previous import volume, and allowed the private sector to bid for their import permits up to the tune of 600,000 tons.
These days of course, we import from 3.2 to 3.4 million tons per year, and it’s not only because there are so many more mouths to feed, but because our farmers are producing less domestic supply.
Despite the monetary tools employed by the Bangko Sentral, inflation persists.
In the next few days, February inflation reports will come up, and the betting is it would be more than 9 percent, a new high, and the culprit is mostly food products.
DOF Sec. Ben Diokno has said agencies and LGUs other than the BSP should do their part in taming inflation. But of course, because it is a supply situation that bedevils us.
Everything is going up, and it’s not only in the Philippines, but all over the world.
Blame COVID, blame Putin, blame everybody, but the problem is likely to hound us for all of 2023, and unless the Russians stop shooting at Ukrainians, and weather patterns do not cause droughts or floods, expect economies all over to suffer from negative impacts.
More on these in future columns.
For now, our Sen. Robinhood wants to fast-track the lifting of economic restrictions in the Constitution, by having a constituent assembly rather than a constitutional convention.
He thinks his fellow senators will want to sit down in single conclave and vote along with 300 HoR counterparts in a Con-Ass.
How many senators would agree with the flag-waving senator? Maybe a few.
Truth to tell, it’s not just the economic provisions that disincentivizes foreigners from investing in this capital-deficient country.
It’s the system, which makes good governance difficult to implement, and a dearth of skilled labor, rules that keep changing and legal contentiousness that never end, along with too much politics at the expense of sound economics.
The House is correct in calling for a convention to revise the Constitution.
But the details of the Con-Con law have to be scrutinized very well.
A major overhaul of the political system has become imperative.