Farmers seek probe on ‘artificial’ palay shortage

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MANILA, Philippines – A militant farmers group on Sunday asked Congress to investigate increasing rice prices allegedly caused by “artificial palay shortage” and overpriced rice importations.

Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), in a statement sent to media, asked both the Senate and the House of Representatives to look into “rice cartels” and bogus farmer-cooperatives hoarding palay to create a false shortage, resulting in massive rice importation and high prices.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Friday accusations by activist-lawyer Argee Guevarra that the latest rice importation from Vietnam was overpriced by P475 million.

Guevarra said the Department of Agriculture imported last April 187,000 metric tons of rice overpriced by P19,762 per metric ton.

KMP said there was no need to import in the first place.

“We have a bountiful harvest. The effect of the typhoon on crops is also minimal,” said KMP secretary general Antonio Flores, citing the Bureau of Agricultural Statistic’s projection that palay production from July to December will increase to 10.46 million metric tons.

“The ‘high’ prices of dry palay in Pangasinan and Isabela and the seemingly uniform prices in other regions not only shows the disparity in prices but exposes the manipulative hands of rice cartels,” he said.

The group said the buying price of traders for “newly harvested or wet palay” in Isabela and Pangasinan were pegged at P16 to 17 per kilo while prices of “dry palay” were at P20 to 22 per kilo as opposed to Laguna’s P13 to P14 and Mindoro Occidental’s P16.

Related stories:

Vietnam rice import ‘overpriced’ by P457M

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