Why is food cheaper in the United States than in the Philippines?
YES, YOU read the question right. We recently visited kin and friends in the United States, and I was dumbfounded to discover food is cheaper there.
It is bad enough that our country is high in poverty, hunger and malnutrition, joblessness and homelessness, illiteracy and ill health and income disparity; but low in per capita income and savings rates, and in inclusive growth. But the ultimate insult to injury must be that the Americans, who earn a per capita GDP of $55,000 per annum or 20 times that of the Filipinos’ paltry $2,800, also benefit from more affordable prices of higher quality, US Department of Agriculture-certified foodstuff.
For example, dressed chicken is $1.19 per pound or P120 per kilogram compared to P130 to P132 per kg in the Philippines. Pork chop is $2.79 per pound or P270 per kg, still cheaper than the local variety at P310 per kg. Dairy milk is only P53 per liter compared to P65 to P80 per liter in the Philippines. This is mind-boggling as, at the same time, it is infuriating.
We all know the manifold reasons behind this aberration—among others, a misguided land redistribution program that has become a national tragedy; the lack of high-yield seeds and hybrids, fertilizers and pesticides; the lack of modern technology causing low productivity; the lack of farm extension training and farm credit; the absence of farm-to-market infrastructure and post-harvest facilities; the high cost of logistics and electricity; excessive taxes; rampant smuggling of agricultural produce, and the cartel of middlemen buying at dirt-cheap farm-gate prices and selling higher at scandalous profit margins.
Without affordable, high-quality food, children will suffer from undernourishment and poor health; and wages will remain high, discouraging foreign direct investments—thus dampening employment and incomes, and forcing migration from the countryside to Metro Manila where rural folk end up as illegal settlers. This should convince population control advocates it is not about the population size or growth rate but, plain and simple, lack of agricultural development planning and poor economic leadership.
I pray this realization stimulates serious thinking and reflection. We cannot grow our food and feed our own people, while the United States can feed half the world with its farm produce, and it is
the world’s richest and most powerful country.
Agriculture was our failure. Agriculture is our future. May God bless the Philippines so our workers can have more than “rice-in-coffee” in the mornings, our babies can have more than “rice water,” our children can have more than instant noodles, and our poor can have more than pagpag (food scavenged from the garbage and recycled for consumption).
—WILFRIDO V.E. ARCILLA, [email protected]
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