Despite surplus, Bukidnon not spared from high rice prices

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/5 June) – Despite a 5,000 metric ton surplus in rice production, Bukidnon has not been spared from soaring rice prices, the Provincial Agriculture Office said.

“We have no control of the commodity flow,” Engr. Alson Quimba, officer-in-charge of the Provincial Agriculture Office (PAO) told radio station DXDB Wednesday.

Quimba said the province has a surplus of at least 5,000 metric tons with a 92-percent sufficiency level projected up to the end of June but added this wasn’t a guarantee against high prices.

Rice prices here increased to P46 to P48 this week from last week’s P36 and P38. The same trend is also observed in other provinces in Mindanao.

Quimba said the government is trying to cushion the impact to farmers through subsidies. The provincial government, he said, has allotted at least P40 million to be made available to rice farmers for production. But how the fund would be distributed, he said, is still under study.

Quimba said the provincial government has organized a price coordinating body that could look into possible price violations.

He stressed the importance of defining the distinction between “stocking” and “hoarding” to monitor rice supply and demand.

Quimba also said the situation calls for farming using organic methods and inputs, noting that commercial fertilizers are so costly, ranging from P1,600 to P3,200 per bag.

Aragasi Pasandalan, provincial manager of the National Food Authority (NFA), told Central Mindanao Newswatch on June 3 that they were preparing to put up a 24-hour checkpoint in Malaybalay City to monitor the flow of grains and other commodities in the province.

Earlier, Agriculture Undersecretary Jesus Emmanuel Paras had accused farmers of “speculation” or holding on to their harvests in anticipation of higher farmgate prices. But farmers’ groups hit Paras, stressing the government should pursue rice cartels and hoarders.

Pasandalan said one of the factors that severely caused the soaring rice prices is low supply. He cited that by this time, only smaller parts of rice fields are yet to be harvested.

Ermedio Abang, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) provincial officer, backed the idea, saying supply of rice is low especially that traders from outside Bukidnon buy the product at a higher price.

In Valencia City, Engr. Gerson Salvan, city agriculture officer, said in another DXDB interview that there is no rice cartel or hoarding in Bukidnon’s rice-rich area dubbed as the “City of Golden Harvest.”

Based on joint DTI and NFA monitoring, Abang said, they found no hoarders in Valencia City.

But Salvan admitted the prices of rice in the city have soared even if they have at least 10,000 hectares of irrigated land.

He said farmers are selling palay at a higher price because of the increasing cost of farm inputs. He said traders, too, want to sell rice outside the province because buyers in those areas are willing to buy at a higher price.

The city government, he said, has realigned at least P4 million for farmers’ subsidy in reaction to the problem.

He admitted that allotting for farmers’ subsidy was not prioritized this year even if there were infrastructure projects that help the farmers.

Salvan said the city council has eyed passing an ordinance putting up the city’s food security fund of at least P15 million per year.

He said they would also request for more NFA rice retailers or outlets in the city. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

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