CEBU CITY ? Increasing prices of rice are crushing the hearts of Cebu?s ?puso? (rice cooked in coconut leaves) makers.
?It?s difficult to sustain (my income) because of the high prices of rice,? said Filomena Ocaña, 42, of Barangay Bolinawan, Carcar City, 40 kilometers south of Cebu City. The woman raises her seven children from earnings in making the rice sold in pyramid-shaped packs that are popular in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Ocaña consumes about 20 kilos of rice and used to net P400 daily. ?But now, it?s good if I can manage to earn P200 a day,? she said.
The increasing prices of rice, brought about mainly by hoarders, have affected more than 50 puso makers, including Ocaña, in the Carcar public market. The price of coconut leaves also increased from P10 per 100 pieces to P15, along with firewood as cooking fuel, Ocaña said.
?With the price of rice at P30 a kilo, how can we sell our products at P1 each? We have to recover our capital, too,? she said. She has been selling puso for 12 years.
Before, the smallest puso could be bought at P1 each. It now costs P1.25. Barbecue vendors sell the smallest pack at P2.50, up from P2.
The bigger serving still sells at P5, but makers have to reduce the size, Ocaña said. Sometimes, she said, she had to lower the price to P4 because of stiff competition.
Ocaña is afraid that she could no longer send her other children to school since her earnings have declined. Although her husband drives a passenger motorcycle, his income has also gone down due to the high price of gasoline.
Their earnings have allowed them to send their eldest child Michael, 22, to college. In fact, Ocaña said, Michael graduated on Friday with a Bachelor of Science in Education degree from a school in Cebu City. She hoped that her son could get a job soon and help augment the family income.
One of her daughters had already stopped going to school so she could help in the puso business. Another daughter went to Manila to work as a househelp.
Napoleon Canape, a member of the price monitoring team of the Carcar market, confirmed that the price of one kilo of Ganador rice rose from P33 on Monday to P37 on Thursday.
Prices of corn are also high, Canape said. Good quality corn is sold at P29 per kilo, but he said many consumers prefer buying the cheaper but lower-quality yellow corn at P22.
In Cebu City?s Carbon market, food vendor Felisardo Gabato said his net earnings had gone down from P200 daily to P150 because he was still selling puso at P2 each.
According to Lucy Libongcogon, secretary of the Cebu City United Vendors Association (CCUVA), even the price of cooked rice in Carbon increased from P5 per serving to P7.