Controls sought after rice hits P50 in parts of Mindanao

By Judy Quiros, Dennis S. Santos, Charlie Señase
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:24:00 06/01/2008

DAVAO CITY — AGRICULTURE officials in Southern Mindanao are advocating stronger regulation of rice distribution and the return of price controls to alleviate the suffering of consumers brought about by the skyrocketing price of rice.

Rogelio Chio, director of the Department of Agriculture in Southern Mindanao, described reports that rice prices had hit P50 in some areas in this rice-producing region as “alarming,” and announced that the DA was drafting a proposal to Congress aimed at making rice a “restricted commodity.”

“This means there should be price controls. We recommend this become a national policy,” Chio said during a press conference at the DA office here.

Chio said he discussed the situation with NFA and officials of other government agencies in the region during an emergency meeting held earlier this week.

Chio said the proposal to restrict the sale and pricing of rice will be sent to Speaker Prospero Nograles and Palawan Rep. Abraham Mitra, chair of the committee on agriculture.

He said if the proposal passes in Congress, the sale of rice would be strongly regulated to avoid unscrupulous businessmen from taking advantage of future supply problems.

Reports over the past few days said the price of the staple has risen by P6 to P10 per kilo from the previous week’s average of P37 per kilo in the provinces of Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and the cities of Tagum, Panabo, Digos, Mati and this city.

In Digos City, Davao del Sur, shouting matches and near fist fights erupted as residents tried to buy rice from an outlet of the National Food Authority (NFA) on Thursday. The price of commercial rice in the market shot up to P47 per kilo in less than two days.

Because of the increase in the price of rice, which the region produces, Lorenzo Camayang, NFA regional manager, said what was really puzzling was that there seemed to be enough supply in the market.

He said an inventory conducted by his office two days ago showed the region’s rice stocks were enough for the next 58 to 69 days.

“And more supply was expected because farmers have just finished harvesting. The rice requirement for Region 11 is placed at 9,000 bags per day,” Camayang said.

“It’s only now that we experienced a disparity of prices in rice. There is no shortage,” he said.

To counter the situation, Camayang said the NFA had set up a total of 252 NFA outlets throughout the city in addition to the 12 Bigasan sa Parokya outlets that it had put up in coordination with the Catholic Church.

Juanito Loyola, president of SRSO Basic Commodities blamed rice speculators and hoarders for the situation. He also blamed millers, who he claimed were “slowing down the release of stocks” in anticipation of higher prices.(PDI)

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