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NFA absence from rice market leaves pricing power to traders — NGO

A CONSUMER group said the National Food Authority’s (NFA) inability to release sufficient volumes of cheap rice onto the market has left pricing power in the hands of commercial entities in the rice trade.

“The problem is that the (NFA) cannot release cheap rice, so those setting rice prices are traders and millers,” said Bantay Bigas Spokesperson Cathy Estavillo.

Under the Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law of 2019, the NFA’s mission has been reduced to maintaining an emergency buffer stock, sourced from domestic farmers.

She said the government needs to buy 25% of the domestic harvest and to revive the NFA’s rice-selling operations at subsidized rates.

She said traders and millers have not allowed retail prices to fall even in recent years when farmgate prices for palay (unmilled rice) were low.

In a statement, Bantay Bigas reiterated its call to repeal the Rice Tariffication Law, which it said has been causing farmers to lose income over four years.

“This continues to happen because they did not strengthen local production or stabilize the farmgate price,” Ms. Estavillo said.

Meanwhile, Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura Executive Director Jayson H. Cainglet said in a statement that he would welcome a subsidy for the retail price of rice but “not at the expense of depressing farmgate prices.”

According to Mr. Cainglet, a farmgate price of P22 per kilo could translate to P42-P46 per kilo a retail without government intervention.

He added that production costs have risen by P2-P3 per kilo due to the increased cost of farm inputs.

Mr. Cainglet asked the economic managers to not push for more rice imports “in the guise of achieving (the President’s campaign promise of) P20 per kilo of rice.”

“We can only (ultimately) lower the retail cost of rice if we can introduce interventions that would lower the cost of producing palay, cut post-harvest losses and remove non-productive players from the whole supply chain,” he added. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera

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