By Raîssa Robles
For lunch today, we decided to eat tacos made by my hubby Alan. Because we had no tomatoes for the delicious salsa, I went to the corner store to buy some.
I was shocked when the seller told me that nine small tomatoes cost P38.65 because prices had shot up to 75 pesos per kilo. That’s equal to US$1.71 per kilo.
That’s four pesos for one tomato! The jump was so high I just had to take a photo. Here it is. Just a little bigger than one lanzones.
Okay, it’s partly the floods and the rain, I know. And maybe the recent hike in toll rates. But tomatoes are some of the easiest plants to grow. And they could even grow without soil.
Besides, the entire country was not devastated.
I’ve noticed – starting from the mid-point of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidency – that prices of food being grown in our country have really risen way, way up. And they continue to rise.
Five years ago, the groceries I used to buy for 1,000 pesos now cost triple that.
I had this impression that we are still an agricultural country and that we grow most of our food.
I have a sneaking suspicion that our prices for basic food commodities are higher than in other Southeast Asian countries.
Why is that?
I wonder if these are higher than those in the US.
Or maybe prices of meat, vegetables and fruits in Metro Manila are very skewed, compared to other parts of the country.
Let me go back to the lowly tomato. There are usually two kinds of tomato varieties in the market – the usual small tomato and the “salad tomato” which is bigger and quite expensive.
The small tomato has been a staple in the Filipino diet.
However, as Dr. Mahar Mangahas of Social Weather Stations pointed out in his column yesterday, the National Statistics Coordination Board has quietly eliminated the tomato from the daily diet of the poor. He noted that before, the average breakfast of the poor was estimated – for statistical purposes – to consist of
- one tomato omelet
- fried rice
- coffee for adults and milk for children
The NSCB changed this breakfast to:
- scrambled egg
- boiled rice
- coffee with milk
Now, no more tomato in the egg and for good reason. They are TOO expensive.
But it’s not just the poor hurting from sky-high food prices.
Even those in the middle class, like me, are finding it difficult to cope nowadays.
It would really, really be a pity if all the good government programs and good intentions of the PNoy government will come to nothing because many Filipinos can no longer afford to eat staples like the lowly tomato.