Aquino to get to bottom of rising prices
ABOARD PR001—President Aquino will meet with concerned government agencies to get to the bottom of the rising prices of basic commodities, such as rice and garlic.
“There will be a meeting, perhaps this week—if not, at the latest, by next week—to check especially rice but also garlic, to determine exactly what is causing the price spikes,” he told reporters at a press conference on a chartered flight on Tuesday.
The President was on his way to Hiroshima from Tokyo where he held a summit meeting with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Aquino said many reasons were offered for the surge in the prices of rice—from the effects of past typhoons that hit agricultural provinces to the dispute with other countries in the Spratlys. “We need definitive answers,” he said.
Based on the Department of Agriculture’s monitoring of prices, the average retail price of well-milled rice reached P42.19 a kilo at the beginning of June. This was 19 percent higher than prices one year ago.
The average retail price of regular milled rice was pegged at P38.93, or 22 percent higher than a year ago.
The farm-gate price of palay was recorded at an average of P20.83 per kilo, or up 26 percent.
The President said he had been told that it was the well-milled rice that “has had this very significant spike.” But, he said, this did not affect the “vast majority” of Filipinos who consume well-milled rice.
Nonetheless, he said the National Food Authority (NFA) had doubled its normal supply to ensure adequate supply of rice—a constant in Filipino meals—and “prevent any undue upward movement, [such as] panic buying that will induce further price spikes.”
Aquino noted that government importation of 800,000 metric tons of rice had been criticized, even if it was for the expected lean months of June and July. Some 12,000 MT of the rice volume have already arrived, he said.
The President said he had asked the Department of Trade and Industry to check the possibility of using satellite imagery to determine the arable lands for planting rice, as well as the tonnage per hectare the lands could produce.
This would show “a real and accurate picture” of the country’s rice supply, he said.
Rice retailers cut prices
In Metro Manila, a group of rice farmers and retailers has decided to lower the average price of milled rice by P2 to P39 a kilo in eight major marketplaces of the metropolis, according to the NFA.
Citing a resolution carried by the Alliance of Filipino Farmers and Rice Retailers Associations (Affra), the NFA said prices were going down in the markets of Muntinlupa, Pateros, Mandaluyong, Taguig, Parañaque, Pasay, Las Piñas and Makati cities.
Leaders of Affra recently met with Francis Pangilinan, presidential adviser on food security and agricultural modernization, and newly installed NFA Administrator Arthur O. Juan.
In a statement, the NFA said the Affra board had passed a resolution to bring down retail prices “in order to help ease the financial burden on consumers.” It said the resolution noted that prices of commercial rice increased mainly due to the lean season and the high buying price of palay.
The agency again assured the public that it was continuing to distribute across the nation regular-milled rice at P27 a kilo and well-milled rice at P32 a kilo.
The rise in rice prices in the country came as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said that price spikes amid a threat of a long period of drought were unlikely because global rice stocks were ample.
In its latest Asia-Pacific Food Price and Policy Monitor report, the FAO said an “abundant” supply of the grain could counterbalance an upward pressure on prices caused by the weather phenomenon.
In the Philippines, weather experts and agricultural offices said the effects of El Niño may not be felt until the fourth quarter of the year and could affect the first rice crop of 2015.
PH better prepared
“Some countries are better prepared for the effects of El Niño than others, with some, such as the Philippines and Indonesia, implementing action plans,” the FAO report said.
Philippine agricultural officials are pushing for a P1.6-billion program that includes cloud-seeding operations for watersheds and farming communities, as well as the construction of small-scale irrigation systems to counter the effects of the coming dry spell.–With a report from Ronnel W. Domingo in Manila
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