Consumers lament shortage of riceBy Armand Galang |Inquirer Central Luzon
PALAYAN CITY—Where have all the harvests gone?
Consumers lamented that while agriculture officials have been claiming that Nueva Ecija was contributing 48 percent of Central Luzon’s total rice production, they were having a hard time looking for quality and affordable grains in the market.
“Even the commercial rice variety sold at P37 a kilogram is of poor quality,” said a housewife from Cabanatuan City.
She, like most of consumers lining up to buy rice in various retailers in the province, was surprised why Nueva Ecija was not spared in an apparent shortage of commercial rice.
Having posted a total harvest of 2,137,170.69 metric tons of palay last year, Nueva Ecija earned the Rice Achievers Award from the Department of Agriculture that came with a P4-million reward in 2012, an agriculture official said.
Serafin Santos, provincial agriculturist, said eight other towns in the province were recognized for their rice harvests and received P1 million each.
Records from the provincial agriculture office showed that Nueva Ecija farmers have increased their yield to 6.06 MT per hectare in 2012, up from only 4.56 MT per hectare in the previous year.
Of the 2012 harvest, the biggest portion came from areas planted to certified seeds, which posted 1,723,102.72 MT, followed by hybrid seeds at 407,160.05 MT.
Rice traders in some towns and cities in the province, however, have started rationing their weekly allocation from the National Food Authority (NFA) to a kilogram of rice per customer so the grains agency could supply more people.
NFA rice sells for P27 to P28 a kilogram while commercial rice sells for as much as P45 a kilogram.
But Santos said the government had no control as to where and to whom farmers would sell their produce during the harvest season.
Most agents of rice traders, who go to local farms to buy the bulk of harvests, are from provinces outside of Nueva Ecija, many of them from Bulacan province, he said.
“The NFA can only buy so much, as prices offered by agents of private traders are more competitive,” Santos said.
A rice mill owner in Sta. Rosa town confirmed the shortage of palay harvested from Nueva Ecija farms, saying his machines had been idle for weeks.
He, however, is expecting his palay supply from Isabela province to come in the next few weeks.
“The supply will come soon because harvest in Isabela has started,” he said.