Business & Economy

Onions at the cost of the daily wage: inflation takes its toll on Filipinos

By Federico Segarra Gomez

Manila, Jan 18 (EFE).- With a kilo of onions at $ 9 and other essential ingredients such as garlic at prices similar to or higher than those of the industrialized world, families in the Philippines strive to maintain decent nutrition despite their precarious income.

The country is looking for a foothold in the face of the perfect storm: the sum of natural disasters -floods and earthquakes- that have devastated crops, rising global inflation since the invasion of Ukraine and the lack of aid to farmers have raised the prices of some foods basics above those of industrialized countries.

“Here the majority earn PHP 570 a day (about $ 10) or even less, and onions are PHP 500 per kilo. People now eat more rice and cheap vegetables,” Marniel Doloricon, a domestic worker, told EFE in the Quiapo market in Manila.

She said that, like her, many workers earn the minimum wage, which in Metro Manila (the metropolitan area of the Philippine capital) is between PHP 500 and PHP 570 a day, and for this reason they have been buying fewer essential products in the gastronomy of the country.

In an unaffordable rise, onions reached PHP 700 per kilo in the markets for Christmas, tripling the prices of this vegetable in Switzerland or Denmark.

Chicken eggs also registered a record recently – PHP 124 a dozen – after the supply was affected by a new outbreak of bird flu, according to what the Philippine Egg Association published Monday.

In the Quiapo market, fruit and vegetable vendors complain that “customers buy less and go cheap,” such as local chives or spinach, John Castillo, 36, whose stall at the market suffered a notable drop in income last Christmas.

“The problem is serious and surely food inflation will last until the end of this year,” academic Dean Dela Paz told EFE, adding that the main expense of low- and middle-income Filipino families is food.

“Unlike other countries, where the average citizen spends more on housing, health or education, Filipinos spend mostly on eating. The Consumer Price Index is mainly made up of food,” Dela Paz added.

The CPI, the reference index for measuring inflation, reached 8.1 percent in December, the highest rate in 14 years.

A situation that especially affects the vulnerable population of a country with a per capita income of less than 215 dollars a month, and where the nine richest people in the Philippines amass more wealth than the poorest half of the country, according to data from the World Bank and Intermon Oxfam. EFE


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