Diversion of cheap rice behind crisis — traders

Claim cheap, imported rice diverted and mixed with local rice


BAGUIO CITY — The diversion of government-subsidized rice to rice-producing areas, particularly Isabela, is the main reason behind the shortage of rice in urban areas, which resulted in the skyrocketing prices of the staple in the past several months.

This was disclosed by local rice dealers and traders who challenged the National Food Authority (NFA) to flood the urban areas with cheap rice during the lean months as strategy to lower the prices of commercial rice.

With the arrival of hundreds of tons of imported rice, the traders and dealers said, its effect is not yet felt as the prices of commercial rice remain at P37-P40 per kilo, the traders and dealers said.

The importation has not lowered the demand as well as the prices in the urban areas because the imported rice is reportedly being brought to rice-producing areas where it is mixed with commercial rice, they said.

Admitting that there was slight decline in the prices of commercial rice in the few days, the rice dealers here said the prevailing prices are still high as the selling price of one cavan of commercial rice is more than P1,200, which, based on conservative estimates, is the right price.

Ironically, they said. the imported rice which is first shipped to rice-producing areas is allegedly being mixed by unscrupulous millers with commercial rice, and the resulting mixture is sold at the prices of commercial rice in urban areas.

The dealers and traders asked the NFA to stop the diversion and flood the urban centers with the government-subsidized imported rice, saying this would force the commercial rice traders to lower the prices and ease the burden of people groaning over high prices of food.

Aside from flooding the market with rice to stabilize the prices, the dealers also called on the national government to invest heavily in irrigation facilities and lower the prices of farm inputs to enable the farmers to have reasonable profit.

Because of the unattractive income in rice growing, they said, the farmers are tempted to sell their lands to developers who convert farms into other purposes.

The farmers said that the P500 perhectare fertilizer subsidy is not an effective solution to the problem because the subsidy is given only on a one-time basis.

With more income that could come as a result of increased productivity enhanced by irrigation and lower prices of farm inputs, the farmers said, they would no longer be tempted to sell their lands to subdivision developers and would stick to farming as their livelihood.(MB)

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