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SRP on rice eyed amid price hikes

Othel V. Campos & Vito Barcelo

DA to meet with stakeholders as rice inflation in Dec. highest in 14 years

The government will meet with farmers, millers, wholesalers, importers and traders soon to determine if it should impose a suggested retail price on regular and well-milled rice amid a recent spike in the price of the staple.

The move comes as Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) observed that while December inflation had dropped, the rate of increase in the cost of rice accelerated to its fastest rate in 14 years.

Assistant Secretary Arnel de Mesa of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said the government is concerned about the recent P2 per kilo price increase in certain markets and wants to address the issue early on.

“We are hoping there will be no more price increases for the year. We spoke to Sinag and they told us that they have already imposed a price increase (on rice),” he said Friday, referring to an umbrella group of agricultural producers.

De Mesa said the continuing volatility in the price and supply of rice in the global market may take its toll on the country’s supply of the grain since the months of January to March are considered the lean season, when imports are needed.

In December, the DA announced that half a million metric tons (MT) of rice imported by the private sector will arrive in batches from December 2023 till February 2024.

About 100,000 tons of imported rice have already arrived in the country, which is part of the 495,000 metric tons committed by import permit holders to the DA.

A total 20,000 bags or about 1,000 metric tons of rice were delivered before the holidays, half of the rice donated by Taiwan.

About 75,000 metric tons of rice from India were to arrive from the last week of December to early January. This is part of 295,000 metric tons of rice India has allocated to the Philippines.

The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) said it has already adjusted the price of regular and well-milled rice by P2 per kilo.

The price increase, it said, was the effect of the rise in the buying price of rice.

At a press briefing Friday, PSA chief and National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa said that rice inflation quickened to 19.6 percent during the month from 15.8 percent in November 2023.

This is the fastest inflation rate for the grain since March 2009, when rice inflation clocked in at 22.9 percent.

PSA data showed the average national price of regular milled rice in December 2023 was at P48.50 per kilo from P46.73 in November 2023 and much higher than P39.63 per kilo in December 2022.

The price per kilo for well-milled rice in December 2023 stood at P53.82, higher than the P51.99 per kilo in November last year. The price in December 2023 was almost P10 more than it was in December 2022, when it sold for P43.98 a kilo.

Meanwhile, Secretary Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the government will monitor the situation closely as international rice prices continue to climb and the El Niño phenomenon takes its toll on agricultural production, and may propose temporary tariff adjustments, if needed.

“We will also push for trade facilitation measures to reduce other non-tariff barriers. While our medium-term objective to boost agricultural productivity remains, it is important to augment domestic supply to ease inflationary pressures on consumers, particularly those in low-income households,” Balisacan added.

Also on Friday, a farmers group, the Act Agri-Kaagapay, called on the government to implement cooperative programs to help bring down agricultural costs and secure the highest possible price for farm products.

Virginia Rodriguez, who led the distribution of organic fertilizers and other farm materials to farmers in Mati City, Davao Oriental, said she supports the Marcos administration’s modernization program and its moves to provide Filipino farmers access to credit and capital to help them use resources, such as fertilizers and modern machinery to improve not only their agricultural produce but also their lives.

The Act Agri Kaagapay started several years ago in San Nicolas, Binondo, Manila, by providing poor families with financial assistance, and medical and scholarship programs.

Rodriguez’s advocacy to help the needy and poor families was extended to many parts of Metro Manila and has reached far-flung barrios in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Act Agri Kaagapay encourages a partnership between farmers, the government and the private sector to build structures that will support both small- and large-scale farmers.

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