ROSALES, Pangasinan— Because of the entry of smuggled rice into the country, rice millers from three northern Luzon provinces said they would not be able to buy palay from local farmers in the next harvest as their warehouses are still full and they do not have money to buy additional stocks.
Rosendo So, chair of the party-list group Abono, said rice millers from Isabela, Nueva Ecija and Pangasinan met recently and complained about slow sales of locally produced rice.
So said a 50-kilogram cavan of local milled rice has a net price of P1,400 because millers bought palay from farmers at P17.50 a kilogram last season.
Smuggled rice would only fetch P950 a sack but this is sold for P1,200 by unscrupulous traders, he said.
“If this problem is not addressed, the price of palay will go down to P14 a kilogram. If this happens, the government should have a support price to help the farmers,” he said, noting that rice is cheaper in Vietnam and other countries because of their governments’ support for farmers.
In a statement, Herculano Co, head of Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations, said warehouses are still filled to the rafters because the local market is awash with smuggled rice.
“Nobody wants to buy. Millers do not have the capital to buy palay because they have yet to move their old stock,” Co said.
Co appealed to Congress to consider passing a new law that would classify rice smuggling as a form of economic sabotage.
So said private traders and rice millers buy 97 to 98 percent of the total rice harvest and the National Food Authority (NFA) buys only 3 percent of the projected 20.4 million metric tons of palay.
He said information reaching his group showed that the NFA allotted only P10.9 billion for the purchase of locally produced rice.
“With the private sector no longer able to procure palay from farmers, the government should increase its procurement to at least 30 percent of the total rice production, or allot a budget of P105 billion for the purpose,” he said.
So said his group’s call for NFA to buy more of this year’s projected harvest could mitigate the impact of the rampant smuggling of rice.
“Otherwise, farmers would be forced to sell their palay at a low cost or at P14 a kilogram, which is almost the cost of their production of P13 a kilogram. With this price, farmers would be forced to stop planting which would negate the rice self-sufficiency program of the government,” he said.
Roger Tan, whose family operates Anson’s Rice Mill in this town, said most of the warehouses in eastern Pangasinan are still full as their stocks hardly moved in the past months.
He said every day, at around 5 a.m., at least 10 container trucks loaded with rice coming from Nueva Ecija pass by Rosales “probably on their way to local markets.”
“The container trucks probably come from Metro Manila but pass through Nueva Ecija [to avoid suspicion],” he said.
Tan said local traders prefer to buy smuggled rice, which is P200 cheaper than locally produced rice. He said these traders earn more because they sell the smuggled rice using the same price for local grains. Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon