By Kenneth Christiane L. Basilio

ADEQUATE post-harvest support will play a role in easing food inflation by cutting down on food waste, after prices ticked up in February, a legislator said Friday.

Asked about March inflation expectations, Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda said post-harvest support measures will cut down on the 15% in lost crops during harvest season.

“The key to keeping inflation under control is to keep an adequate rice supply available,” Mr. Salceda, who is a vice chair of the House Agriculture and Food Committee, told BusinessWorld in a Viber message. “Any shocks in rice prices will have a pronounced effect on overall price levels.”

Food was the primary driver for the rise in February inflation. The Philippine Statistics Authority said February inflation rose to 3.4% from 2.8% in January, with food inflation accelerating to 4.8% from 3.3% in the same period.

Reducing post-harvest losses can reduce dependence on agricultural imports. “Our post-harvest losses account for as much as 15% by total volume. So, if we can reduce losses, we can ease the pressure to import a bit,” Mr. Salceda said.

However, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura Executive Director Jayson H. Cainglet said post-harvest losses can spike to 40% as the “milling recovery rate currently stands at around 60% to 65%.”

“If we can increase the milling recovery rate (from post-harvest support) to 70% to 80%, then we expect to see almost one to two million additional metric tons of rice” being made available to the market, Mr. Cainglet told BusinessWorld by phone.

The government can also increase agricultural productivity by providing programs and mechanisms that support harvesting activities. “When it comes to crops: warehousing, storage facilities, millers and crop driers are the most important government interventions,” he said in Filipino.

Mr. Africa said that increasing agricultural productivity requires more than providing post-harvest support. “Big leaps in support to farmers and fisherfolk are vital for the big leaps in productivity needed to substantially lower domestic food prices,” he said.

“The support for agriculture has to be more comprehensive and span farm inputs, credit and insurance, and extension services as well and not just post-harvest facilities,” Mr. Africa added.

Food accounts for 38% of the consumption basket, followed by housing, water, electricity, gas, and other fuels (21%), and transportation expenses (9%), Mr. Africa said.