Low rice prices remain

Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star) - March 2, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Almost one year since the opening up of the market, prices of Filipinos’ main staple remained low and stable at the expense of farmers who continue to earn less, following the influx of imported rice.

Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed consistent lower prices nearly a year after the Philippines implemented the Rice Tariffication Law and opened the floodgates to more private sector imports.

In its regular update on palay, rice and corn prices, PSA said the average wholesale price of well-milled rice is now at P37.06 per kilogram as of the second week of February.

This is 11 percent lower than the P41.45 per kilo level from the same period a year ago and 0.2 percent down on a weekly basis.

Its average retail price also decreased by eight percent to P41.22 per kilo.

Meanwhile, the wholesale price of regular-milled rice was P33.02 per kilo, down 13 percent, while its average retail price was at P36.33 a kilo.

While consumers are benefitting from the opening up of the market, local farmers continue to suffer from declining palay (unhusked rice) farmgate prices.

The average farmgate price of palay is nowhere near recovery at P16. This is, however, a 0.2 percent improvement from the earlier week’s level of P15.97.

The current price is still an 18.5 percent drop from the P19.63 per kilo in 2019.

The supposed gains of the opening up of the rice market last year did not offset the losses of farmers pegged at P68 billion as the influx of the imported commodity dampened palay prices.

For the first year of the Rice Tariffication Law’s implementation, the Federation of Free Farmers said losses of rice producers exceeded the gains of consumers by as much as P34 billion.

In response, the Department of Agriculture said it would void almost 1.78 million metric tons of rice imports after traders failed to use and bring in the volume so as not to further dampen palay prices as the summer harvest is set to commence this month.

Agriculture Secretary William Dar maintained that the agency will cancel the existing sanitary and phytosanitary import clearances of those who applied, but did not bring in the volume they applied for amid a liberalized rice regime.

Under the Rice Tariffication Law, quantitative restrictions on rice importation are lifted and private traders are allowed to import the commodity from countries of their choice.

The Rice Tariffication Law replaced the government’s quantitative restrictions on importation of the staple with a 35 percent tariff.

The measure also created the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or a special rice buffer fund with an initial P10-billion to ensure rice production competitiveness.

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