Poe calls for Senate probe on ‘rice shortage, cartel’
It was “downright bewildering” for the Philippines to experience a critically low supply of affordable rice despite a record-breaking surplus in the supply of this staple necessity, Senator Grace Poe lamented on Wednesday.
Because of this, Poe, who chairs the Senate public services committee, filed on Tuesday Senate Resolution No. 623, directing the committee on agriculture and food to investigate the purported shortage of National Food Authority (NFA) rice that is driving up prices of commercial rice in the markets.
“It is downright bewildering to allegedly have a record-breaking surplus in rice supply on one hand and experience a low inventory of rice in the warehouses of NFA on the other hand and thereby needing to import rice,” she said in filing the measure.
The senator said the inquiry is also set to look into the long-standing claims that there are syndicates or “rice cartel” in the government’s rice procurement and importation program and manipulate rice data.
The NFA said buffer stocks of cheap rice are running low, which prompted them to import 250,000 metric tons of rice. This is despite the NFA’s mandate to maintain a 15-day buffer stock at any given time and 30 days at the onset of the lean months of July to September.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol lamented this as he bared the Philippines would reach a record-breaking 3 million metric tons in the first quarter of 2018.
Poe said that “we cannot turn a blind eye on alleged reports regarding the existence of a rice cartel in the Philippines.”
“The alleged existence of a rice cartel operating inside and outside the government is definitely an affront to the dignity of our Filipino rice farmers and the consuming public and must be obliterated to free our small farmers from a vicious debt trap and to drive away hunger out of the borders of the Philippines,” she added. /jpv
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.