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MANILA, Philippines – With rice prices increasing in the country, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s election promise of lowering the price of rice to P20 per kilo is seeming more like wishful thinking.
In a House hearing on Tuesday, August 22 on the Department of Agriculture’s (DA) proposed 2024 budget, DA Undersecretary Mercedita Sombilla said it would be difficult to lower the price to P20 in the immediate future.
“Within the next two years, posible ba ‘yung bente pesos na kilo ng bigas?” asked Kabataan Representative Raoul Manuel. (Within the next two years, is the P20/kilo of rice feasible?)
“Next two years po? Baka mahirap po,” Sombilla said. (It would be hard.)
Why is this promise important? Rice is one of major agricultural crops in the Philippines and a staple in any Filipino household. Rising prices affect both farmers and consumers and drive up inflation.
The promise also has political implications since Marcos serves concurrently as the agriculture chief.
Prices now reach more than P50 in many areas. “If it will stabilize from P45 to P46, that will be good for our farmers. And hopefully, we can cope up with that price,” said DA Undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian said during the hearing.
No rice shortage yet
In the lean months of July to September, when farmers are only starting to harvest, the DA is looking at rice imports to ensure steady supply.
However, the DA is quick to clarify that there is no rice shortage in the Philippines yet. According to Sombilla, what we do have now are meager stocks of rice.
“We have to ensure we have enough supply,” said Sombilla. “We are in the lean months, we are still harvesting.”
Sombilla also explained during the hearing that rice prices are rising because of the simultaneous increase in both global and farm gate prices.
Did the recent typhoons hamper the country’s supply? Sebastian said the damage brought by Typhoon Egay last month to the agriculture sector “can be considered minimal and recoverable.”
According to the last bulletin from DA released on August 4, damage and losses in rice amounted to P1.79 billion, affecting 114,735 hectares of farm lands. This meant a loss of 42,778 metric tons in volume production, or 0.22% of the total annual production target volume for rice.
“Damaged areas can still replant. It’s still early in the season,” said Sebastian.