Cotabato rice retailers defy price cap
KIDAPAWAN CITY – Rice retailers in the province of Cotabato, a major granary in Mindanao, are defying Executive Order No. 39 issued by President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. mandating a price cap on rice starting on Tuesday.
Grains Retailer Confederation (Grecon) president Carmelito Bacus said that instead of following the order, they will negotiate with the Local Price Monitoring Team (LPMT) to give them another week to dispose of their rice stocks that were bought at higher farm gate prices to avoid incurring losses.
Bacus disclosed that rice retailers in the entire province of Cotabato agreed not to sell their regular-milled and well-milled rice based on the suggested retail price as contained in EO 39.
Bacus said that though there is enough supply of regular and well milled rice, they cannot sell it at the lower price mandated in the order as they bought it at a higher price from their suppliers.
If they sell at the price ordered by the President, a retailer stands to lose P400 per 50-kilogram sack, Bacus noted.
“We do business to earn profit, not to (incur) losses,” Bacus explained.
Bacus, however, said that if the government will give them assistance perhaps they will abide by the order.
Grecon-Cotabato is composed of 265 rice retailers throughout the province.
On Tuesday, prices of rice sold on retail in the Mega Market of Kidapawan City, the provincial capital, remain high despite the President’s order.
Commercial rice is sold at P52 to P58 per kilo, depending on the variety.
A monitoring by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Kidapawan City also showed defiance by the rice traders to the price cap.
According to a media release of DTI in Cotabato province, of the 10 stalls monitored in Kidapawan’s Mega Market, only one trader complied with the price cap.
The simultaneous DTI price monitoring rounds was ordered by provincial director Ferdinand Cabiles in relation to the presidential order’s taking effect on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the price of fresh palay went down two days after the announcement of the rice price cap. Last week, the farm gate price in Cotabato province was at P25.50 per kilo, but as of Sunday, it went down to P17 per kilo.
In General Santos City, the local government vowed to close the shops of rice retailers who will not follow the price ceiling on the staple food ordered by President Marcos.
On behalf of Mayor Lorelie Pacquiao, city administrator Franklin Gacal directed the personnel of the Business Permit and Licensing Division and the public market to padlock erring establishments that will not implement Executive Order No. 39.
“You shall strictly oversee that all business establishments within the jurisdiction of General Santos City engaged in the selling of rice shall comply with this order under pain of penalty,” Gacal told the concerned local offices.
“You shall immediately issue a cease-and-desist order against any erring establishment,” he added.
In Pagadian City, retailers grudgingly complied with the President’s order as they stand to lose big.
Even as the local price monitoring team gave them until noon on Tuesday to begin retailing using the adjusted price, the retailers already displayed new price tags on Tuesday morning.
City Agriculture Office chief Joselito Sumalinog said they are giving time for the retailers to do the printing and adjustments of the prices and identifying which varieties are regular-milled and well-milled.
Pagadian City’s Agora Rice and Corn Retailers Association president Arsenio Piañar said they have just procured rice recently at a higher cost and the price adjustment would mean they will be incurring losses.
Rice retailer Maria Fe Obaob said they could not do anything about the order but obey.
“And we are willing to sacrifice for this. We’ll just take a beating, for now,” she added.
In a dialogue-meeting with the Local Price Coordinating Council on Monday, the retailers were relieved to learn that the price cap does not include premium rice that retails at P58 to P60 per kilo, and special rice priced at P80 per kilo.
Department of Agriculture regional technical director Melba Wee gave the assurance that the situation is temporary considering that harvest season is nearing for rice producers in Zamboanga del Sur and the rest of the Zamboanga Peninsula.