Traders feel pinch of rice costs as new import racket seen
LUCENA CITY—Rice traders here are also complaining about high prices of the nation’s primary cereal.
“High prices of rice also mean large capital that we could have used in other business ventures,” a rice store owner at the city market here told the Inquirer.
Another rice seller said explaining the spiraling cost of rice to consumers has become a difficult routine.
“It’s doubly hard if the buyer is a longtime suki. Some of them probably thought that we’ve become profit-greedy,” the rice dealer said.
The rice dealers requested anonymity for fear of retaliatory moves by local officials of the National Food Authority (NFA).
According to the Department of Agriculture (DA) Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), as of the second week of September retail prices of regular-milled and well-milled rice at P36.1 and P39.3 per kilo, respectively, are nearly P4 higher than prices for the same period in 2012.
In a statement, activist lawyer Argee Guevarra criticized NFA officials for taking advantage of the rice shortage situation to justify another importation to the tune of 100,000 metric tons to boost its buffer stock and address high rice costs.
“After two congressional hearings and countless press releases announcing that we have ample rice supply, the NFA is finally admitting that we don’t have enough rice stocks,” Guevarra said.
The lawyer was the one who first blew the whistle on alleged irregularities in the recent NFA’s government-to-government importation of rice from Vietnam, which he said was overpriced by more than P450 million.
NFA administrator Orland Calayag denied the allegation.
The alleged overpricing of Vietnam rice and the continued spike in rice prices prompted separate inquiries in the Senate and the House.
Guevarra, of the party-list group Sanlakas, cited reports that Calayag had met with NFA managers to discuss the additional importation of the cereal to address the supposed rice shortage allegedly orchestrated by rice cartels.
Guevarra said he also received information that a government economic team is exerting pressure on Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to import 500,000 MT of rice to address the prevailing shortage.
But according to Guevarra, Alcala refused to heed the advice to import more rice and continued to cling to his claim that the country is rice-sufficient.
“Ultimately they will use this predicament to pave the way for another government-to-government transaction, an additional racket,” the lawyer said.
Guevarra called on media to remain vigilant and focus on all the transactions entered into by the DA and the NFA.
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