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SOUTH COTABATO, Philippines – A Department of Agriculture (DA) official said rice prices in Soccsksargen are expected to go down with the onset of the harvest season.
Ray Embajador, the DA’s Soccsksargen Rice Program Coordinator, said rice prices in the region should only be hovering at P42 to P44 per kilogram because current palay prices range from P21 to P22 a kilo.
The actual retail prices of rice in most stores in the region range from P52 to P58 per kilo.
Embajador said with the onset of the harvest season, the prevailing price of P48 to P51 a kilo is expected to go down. The high prices are due to a domino effect of the rice prices in Luzon, he said.
Soccsksargen posted a palay production of about 1.25 million metric tons of palay in 2022, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PRRI) said. Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces are the top rice producers at about 511,000 metric tons and 395,000 metric tons respectively.
Local rice traders, however, expressed doubt about this.
Junie Solivar, a rice dealer, finds it difficult to agree with the DA official’s forecast, pointing out that while the harvest has begun, bulk buyers from Zamboanga and the Visayas have been around waiting with their dozens of trucks.
He said bulk buyers from Zamboanga and the Visayas have been procuring palay from local farmers at P26, higher by at least P3 than the usual going rate in Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato.
“They are actually the ones pulling up the prices of palay and rice in the region,” Solivar told Rappler on Wednesday, August 30.
A rice trader from Samar who requested not to be named said they were only asked to buy palay because it is difficult to find this in their place. The frequent rains in their area have destroyed rice fields, he said.
These bulk buyers have been staying near the farms with their trucks, waiting for the harvest, he lamented. “I know of one buyer who brought with him 10 huge hauler trucks,” he said.
They are about to finish harvesting in Lambayong and will go next to Esperanza, then to Tulunan and Mlang, Solivar said, referring to major rice producing towns in Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato.
“If I were the rice farmer, I would sell to them because the money is with them,” the rice trader lamented.
He said the buyers haul the rice to Zamboanga and as far as Samar and Leyte, affecting the local supply requirements and thus sending jacking up prices.
Solivar said there is a little difference between the price of local and imported rice, like a 25-kg bag of local rice is pegged at P1,250 while a 25-kg of imported rice sells at P1,385.
Problem is there is only a limited supply of imported rice. No shipment came since the last time imported rice arrived at the port in General Santos in early August.
There were 80 container vans that were unloaded then, he said. Each container van had 1,200 25-kilo bags of rice. – Rappler.com