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Cartel suspected behind this: Exorbitant fish, fruit prices at Tagbilaran City markets

TAGBILARAN CITY, Philippines — The prices of fish and fruits in Tagbilaran City continued to be exorbitantly high from the recent holidays to this day, with no signs of waning to a level, reasonable and affordable to the many.

These soaring prices could no longer be blamed on bad weather, as it was during Agaton on New Year's Day, or to the phase of the moon, or to the TRAIN law, as some provincial officials now suspected that hands of a cartel could be behind these excessive prices of fish and fruits in Tagbilaran.

Consumers are still suffering from sky-high prices of fish and fruits and other commodities to this day. Some of them posted on Facebook the following prices of fish, as of January 10: pugapo, mulmul, katambak, and kitong are priced each at P500 per kilo in one of the city markets.

Others are mamsa at P400, tulingan at P240, bolinao at P200, and bangkolisan at P350.

The fish prices however vary from one place to another, like in Jagna and Ubay towns. Tulingan is priced lower than in other towns or in Tagbilaran, based on an actual survey conducted by The Freeman last week.

On fruits, mangosteen is pegged at P500 per kilo in one of the fruits stands in Tagbilaran, higher by P100 than the past season, according to a fruit vendor. Other highly priced fruits are: guyabano at P100 per kilo; watermelon at P40; lanzones at P200; mango at P180; and marang at P100.

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It was reported earlier that the provincial Technical Working Group has been digging deeper into the dynamics of the fish market prices. And it has so far found that high fish prices are the workings of the middlemen traders, playing some hanky-panky games in the markets.

This "hocus pocus" among the middlemen has caused prices of fish to increase exorbitantly because there are no value-added costs–such as fuel and other expenses on their part–to cause the surge.

The TWG has been continuously monitoring fish prices in different markets in Bohol to this day, but it was not immediately known what were the results of its study. Also being studied is the proposed credit scheme for fishermen and traders to counter the illegal "5-6" scheme by loan sharks.

In the later part of 2017, Benjie Oliva, the Boholano administrator of the Cooperative Development Authority, had disclosed that fish cartel exists and has been dictating prices of goods in the province. He told the Provincial Board that this cartel was found to be operating, based on a study of the Department of Agriculture years ago.

Oliva had even proposed to the provincial officials to conduct an investigation into the 'cartel,' but so far, it was not certain what happened to his proposal or what action the PB had undertaken on the matter.


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