Group hits DA’s announcement on spike of rice prices

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
Group hits DA�s announcement on spike of rice prices
A rice seller inspects the stocks of rice at a warehouse in Quezon City on April 10, 2023.
STAR / Jesse Bustos

MANILA, Philippines — A group involved in monitoring developments in the rice industry yesterday criticized the Department of Agriculture (DA) over its announcement that retail prices of the grains are expected to go up in the next weeks.

Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo also questioned the timing of the announcement of Agriculture Assistant Secretary and deputy spokesman Rex Estoperez, saying the projected increase of up to P5 per kilo of rice coincided with the observance of Food Security Month this April.

“It was a tragedy that the DA became a spokesperson of the traders and millers. It was a shame that the agency issued a statement on the rice price increase and even justified the P5 increase in the retail prices. It was even announced while commemorating the Food Security Month,” Estavillo told The STAR.

Estoperez has blamed the high farm gate prices of palay amid the dry season and the rising cost of imported rice for the spike in the retail price of the country’s staple food.

“(The increase in the retail price of rice) was due to the liberalization policies of the government in the agriculture sector like RA (Republic Act) 11203. The government also lacks a comprehensive plan to bring down the prices of rice,” Estavillo said, referring to the law that lifts the quantitative import restriction on rice.

Estavillo criticized the government’s failure to provide assistance to the farmers affected by calamities.

“This results in an unending cycle in the country. The government should be blamed for the spike in the retail prices of rice,” she said.

Farmers and consumers have been asking the government to intervene by allocating funds and ordering the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy farmers’ palay at P23 per kilo, according to the Bantay Bigas spokesperson.

“After buying all the palay harvest of farmers, the NFA should manage the milling and bring the rice to the markets and sell at P27 to P32 subsidized price of the agency,” she said.

At the same time, Estavillo challenged President Marcos to prioritize the strengthening of the local rice industry by subsidizing post-harvest facilities.

“The government should ensure 100-percent irrigation, pass into law the (proposed) Rice Industry Development Act and stop liberalizing agriculture by repealing RA 11203,” Estavillo said.

Based on the DA’s monitoring in Metro Manila markets, retail prices of local commercial rice range from P48 to P60 per kilo for special, P42 to P49 for premium, P39 to P46 for well-milled and from P34 to P40 per kilo for regular milled.

On the other hand, prices of imported commercial rice range from P50 to P58 per kilo for special, P43 to P52 for premium, P40 to P46 for well-milled and from P37 to P44 per kilo for regular milled.

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