Inconsistent policies seen cause of rice price hikes

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KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines—The provincial head of the National Food Authority (NFA) in North Cotabato blamed the rising costs of rice on unscrupulous traders even as another lawmaker called on the Department of Agriculture (DA) and NFA to stick to a 2011-2016 food sufficiency program to ensure affordable rice prices.

Avelino Usman, provincial NFA manager, said while the release of NFA rice to the market was aimed at keeping prices stable, NFA officials are wondering why prices continue to go up.

In a statement quoting him, Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz (Abakada-Guro party-list group) said the 2011-2016 Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) was an example of good coordination between the DA and NFA, but “we do not understand why DA and NFA officials just don’t stick with the plan that they themselves put together.”

Inconsistencies

Dela Cruz said the reason for supply shortages and price increases is the “adoption of policies that are inconsistent with the FSSP.”

“What they are doing now contradicts the recommendations of the FSSP,” said Dela Cruz. One of these, he said, is the involvement of the private sector in rice importation. The NFA currently enjoys a monopoly over rice importation, resulting in the agency paying duties for imported rice.

“If the agenda is rice self-sufficiency,” said Dela Cruz, “then all the DA and NFA have to do is stick to the plan.”

“Unless our officials have another agenda,” he said.

In this city alone, a kilogram of well-milled rice sells for P42 up by P5 from P37 per kilogram.

In other provinces, the situation is worse as retailers there sell rice at an average of P44 per kilogram.

40 sacks monthly

Usman said each month, since the lean season started, NFA has been releasing 40 sacks of rice to retailers at a market here alone each month.

Usman, however, said there have been reports that unscrupulous rice retailers would mix NFA rice, which sells for P27 to P32 per kilogram, with commercial rice and sell them for higher prices.

But he said the reports have yet to be proven. “We cannot discount the possibility” that the reports are true, he said.

“That is why we are on constant monitoring of our various accredited outlets in the province,” Usman said.

He said dishonest rice retailers would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Usman said there was no rice shortage in the province and that the food agency has more than enough stocks that could last until the harvest season.

“To date NFA-North Cotabato has 24,000 sacks that serve as buffer stocks and 27,000 sacks of palay ready for milling,” he said. Williamor A. Magbanua, Inquirer Mindanao

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