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Mindanao rice prices stabilizing--Dureza

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:09:00 06/08/2008

Filed Under: rice problem, Agriculture, Food

THE PRICE OF RICE IN MINDANAO, which has skyrocketed in recent days and sown alarm in the region, is now beginning to stabilize after the National Food Authority (NFA) flooded key markets with subsidized rice this week.

Incoming Press Secretary Jesus Dureza on Saturday said there was now an ample supply of rice ?within Davao region, which saw the price of the cereal topping P50 per kilo early this week.? This, he said, was proof that the situation was being brought under control.

Dureza went to Mindanao Friday to personally look at the situation after being authorized by the Cabinet to do so early this week.

Dureza, currently the presidential adviser on the peace processes being negotiated with both communist rebels and Moro insurgents, is scheduled to visit other areas over the weekend.

Intervention

?The immediate intervention by the government, through local government units, in tandem with national agencies has allayed speculation that there is rice shortage,? said Dureza. ?There is enough supply of rice. What we need to do is strengthen monitoring and communication efforts to avoid speculation.?

Dureza will assume his new job as press secretary on June 16 vice outgoing Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, who will remain as spokesperson of President Macapagal-Arroyo until early July, after which he assumes his new post as a member of the Monetary Board.

The post of presidential spokesperson will then go to Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in a concurrent capacity.

On Monday, the President ordered an investigation into the soaring price of rice in the South.

The price of ?polished? rice has risen to levels beyond the reach of most people in Mindanao?from P41 a kilo to P52. More and more residents are opting to buy government-subsidized rice, which is sold at P18.50.

The investigation, jointly conducted by the Departments of Trade and Agriculture, found no evidence of hoarding as earlier reported. Agriculture Undersecretary Jesus Paras blamed the soaring price of rice in Mindanao on ?speculation? by the farmers themselves.

Paras said Tuesday that the farmers were holding on to their harvested palay (unhusked rice) in anticipation of higher farm-gate buying prices later this month because of the high prices of fuel and inputs like fertilizer.

Paras said there was no need to place the region under a state of emergency as demanded by Mindanao executives led by Davao del Sur Gov. Douglas Cagas. He said the move could only be resorted to if a severe lack of rice or food existed.

Easier said than done

?The NFA is already there giving the assurance to the public that there?s more than enough rice available,? he said. He called attention to the NFA move to ?double the volume? of well-milled rice sold at P18.25 per kilo in the region, aside from the other varieties sold at P25 a kilo.

?They have penetrated the key markets,? he said.

On Friday, President Macapacal-Arroyo said that ?lowering the price of NFA rice is easier said than done? because a large part of the staple?s price was subsidized.

Congress would have to include in the National Budget an appropriation for a higher subsidy to make NFA rice cheaper, the President said in a speech before students and education officials in Manila.

She pointed out that if it were not for the government subsidy, NFA rice would be similarly priced with commercial rice.



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