MANILA, Philippines – The government will be importing rice amid price increases of basic commodities, which it suspects is being driven by artificial forces.
“We decided to import additional rice. By next week, they will report exactly how much,” President Benigno Aquino III told reporters on Friday, June 27.
The decision was made following a 3-hour meeting with the Department of Agriculture, Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan, and other government officials.
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Aquino also said that reports from economists say the price hike of rice and basic commodities “doesn’t make sense.”
“They are insisting there is enough supply. So the suspicion is there are those colluding to keep the prices high, especially the price of garlic,” he said.
“As for the rice, we’ve already received 25% of what we consigned because these are the months, especially in the beginning of July, that are lean months wherein we’re waiting for our harvest.”
The government had originally set its rice imports at 800,000 metric tons (MT) this year.
Aquino admitted their conclusion are only suspicions for now and that part of the problem is that the analysis is still indefinite, since the data the government has been receiving is still unclear.
“We are importing rice so that if there are those taking advantage and are hiding their supplies [to drive prices], we have rice to provide in exchange to ensure they will lose money doing what they’re doing,” he said.
Earlier, Aquino said he wanted “definitive answers” on the price spikes on rice, garlic and other basic commodities, despite sufficient supply in the country.
In addition to rice importation, Aquino said the government has also set aside funds to support farmers, especially when the imported rice comes in September.
The President also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to work with the Philippine National Police (PNP) to look deeper into the possibility of cartels, and to file cases against those who violate the law. He said the National Food Authority has ongoing operations against those controlling prices and unauthorized sellers of rice.
Aquino also ordered the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to use satellite imagery to mark the places where rice is planted, and to create a more detailed program that could tell the average yield in these places. The goal, Aquino said, is up to date, real time estimates of the country’s potential harvests to guide the amount of imports.
“The point is we have tasked departments to implement immediate solutions, but what is important in the long term is to deal with groups or individuals who take advantage of the people,” he said.
Alcala said in an interview on ANC on Thursday that he believed the spike in rice prices is due to higher farmgate prices, the crackdown against rice smugglers, and the policy against “unnecessary” rice importation.
The agriculture chief had said that commercial well-milled rice is selling at an average of P42 (US$0.96) per kilo, compared to P36 (US$0.82) before prices started to climb, but this is because rice traders have been buying from rice farmers at higher prices. – Rappler.com