Group warns of worse hunger as rice prices spike

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
Group warns of worse hunger as rice prices spike
Workers store sacks of local premium rice at a rice mill warehouse in Bocaue, Bulacan on September 8, 2023. S
TAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The watchdog group Bantay Bigas over the weekend warned of an increase in hunger incidence in the country amid the continued spike in retail prices of rice.

Cathy Estavillo, Bantay Bigas spokesperson, cited as indicator the confirmation given by retailers of a drop in the volume of rice that consumers buy in the market.

“No less than the retailers were saying that there was a drop on the number of kilos of rice being bought by consumers,” Estavillo said in a radio interview.

She added that even in rice-producing provinces Central Luzon, the retail prices of the Filipino’s staple food are “high.”

“It is frightening that you can no longer buy regular milled rice, the lowest (retail price) is now P54 (per kilo). The government should not allow (a scenario where) the lowest will be P60 (per kilo) as the lowest (price) for imported rice is already P62 (per kilo). If the government will not do anything, the number (of Filipinos) who are experiencing hunger will further expand,” Estavillo pointed out.

Estavillo also noted that the National Food Authority (NFA) failed to utilize its P9-billion funding to buy palay from farmers “because of its high standard.”

“The NFA failed to use its P9-billion budget to buy palay despite increasing its buying price to P23 (per kilo) because of its high criteria, like 100 percent clean and 14 percent dry. We all know that the farmers don’t have post-harvest facilities and they need to sell their produce immediately to pay for their debts,” she said.

She also contradicted claims that the farmgate price for palay reached as high as P32 per kilo.

“Based on our monitoring on the ground this past harvest season, there was no such thing (P32 per kilo) as the farmgate price only ranged between P20 and P22 per kilo,” Estavillo said.

Bantay Bigas also cited the country’s overdependence on importation as among reasons for the increase of retail prices of rice.

“Since the implementation of Republic Act 11023 (Rice Tariffication Law) five years ago, we saw a spike in the retail price of rice. This is (still) happening because the Marcos administration only continued the programs of the previous administration of Duterte,” Estavillo said.

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