Rice traders behind shortage talk, says Alcala

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Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala on Tuesdasy said traders wishing to dispose of their excess rice inventories may be behind recent false reports of a rice shortage.

“There are parties—not small parties but parties with resources—that have been manipulating rice supplies,” Alcala said.

He said the lean months were over and the harvest had started in many rice-producing areas.

“There is enough supply and there is no reason for the commercial price to spike,” he said. “We believe some people have large inventories and they are creating opportunities [for the price] to go up.”

The National Food Authority (NFA), citing “reliable sources,” said reports of a shortage and hoarding “are part of a campaign designed to undermine the present administration and compel us to relent in our campaign against unscrupulous rice traders.”

NFA administrator Orlan Calayag, in a statement, said the agency had dispatched teams to look for the warehouses holding commercial rice stocks and to build up cases of hoarding against those responsible.

No price increase

Alcala, however, said the government’s intervention in a shortage was limited to providing low-priced rice such as the P27-per-kilo regular milled rice and the P32-per-kilo well-milled rice.

“As long as we can provide the general public with the right volume, we don’t see price hikes of commercial rice as the NFA’s fault,” he said.

“There are many who are not happy with how we do things these days,” he added.

“Just here in Metro Manila, we have apprehended and penalized 62 retailers for unreasonable practices. This has not happened in a long time and certain parties are sure to be offended,” he said.

Last week, Calayag said the palay harvest in the Visayas and Mindanao started earlier than usual, giving the government an opportunity to beef up the rice inventory in the aftermath of extensive crop damage caused by recent typhoons.

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