Rice NGO Seeks Lower-Priced Rice in Market

MANILA, Philippines — Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) today urges Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap to investigate why the prices of rice remain high and therefore unaffordable, despite claims from various sectors that the tight supply of rice has softened.

Jessica Reyes-Cantos, R1 lead convenor also seeks stronger government action to prosecute unscrupulous traders that will lead to beneficial results such as arresting the increase in prices of rice in the market.

“We have seen raids and arrests of alleged suspects of rice hoarding but we did not see and hear anybody gets proven guilty and therefore penalized. More importantly, the measures are obviously not enough to keep the prices from going up, despite the harvest in March-April this year,” said Cantos.

According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), palay production reached 3.75 million metric tons in March this year and is slightly higher than last year’s record by 1.96 percent.

Conrado Ibañez, National Food Authority’s assistant administrator and assistant secretary who heads the private sector auction committee, said the weak response from traders in last Tuesday’s rice tender showed that local demand for rice “may not be as intense as compared to several weeks ago.”

“The question remains, where are these supplies that will supposedly soften the impact of very steep global prices of rice? The government cannot possibly blame the farmers of holding on to their palay because they also need to secure rice for their own consumption,” said Cantos.

According to BAS price monitoring, the prices of rice in the market as of May 27, 2008 range from P33 to P37 pesos a kilo. The prices of rice on February 27, 2008, just before the prices rapidly increased, range from P24 to P28 pesos per kilo.

Cantos cites the NFA for selling rice in the commercial market at P25 per kilo but this should be widely available to present a credible threat to commercial rice traders who continue to sell at very high prices.

“We are worried that prices will not go back to the pre-crisis level but it should taper a bit to make the staple food more affordable to poor consumers and farmers,” said Cantos.(PinoyPress)

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