Innovation pushed to boost agri logistics, lower food prices

Local food producers have proposed innovative ways to improve the overall system of transporting produce from the farm to the consumers to help reduce the retail prices of agricultural goods.

Addressing the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food, Inc. (PCAFI) press briefing Wednesday, Air21 founding chair Alberto Lina said it is possible to substantially reduce the prices of food if gaps in agricultural logistics are efficiently addressed.

Recognized as an expert in transport efficiency, Lina said key state agencies can take the lead in this effort by “introducing more cold storage facilities, grain silos, grain dryers and milling machines to the farming sector.”

He said the government can also acquire temperature-controlled vehicles and make them available to farmers in remote areas, while continuing to improve farm-to-market road networks, adding that giving internet access to the estimated 15% of the country that still lack network access is a crucial step in transportation efficiency.

Lina said farmers can leverage modern technology to get their goods to consumers quickly, and without intermediaries. He called on farmers’ cooperatives to establish online portals to connect with retailers directly, and do away with several layers of middlemen.

PCAFI president Danilo Fausto said gaps in agriculture logistics also result in excessive wastage of food being transported, which is currently at unacceptable levels. He noted that in the months leading up to the recent onion supply crisis, excess onion production was being discarded as garbage because there was nowhere to store them and the glut was forcing prices down too low.

Fausto said reducing wastage will also contribute to building a substantial buffer stock of food in the country, which may prove crucial during times of shortage. He urged concerned government agencies to make financing as well as agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers and better seeds, available to more small farmers to help them become more productive.

“Farmers should start thinking like entrepreneurs. Why should they be content with only four tons (of rice) per hectare when they can harvest 10 tons?,” he added.

The PCAFI likewise asked the government and private sector to make the business environment less conducive to middlemen, who play a huge and crucial role in raising retail prices of commodities.