A local rice watchdog, farmers, and civil organizations on Monday called on the National Price Coordinating Council to set a suggested retail price (SRP) for commercial well-milled rice to ensure that the staple remains affordable and available to the people.
In a press conference, Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) and Alyansa Agrikultura called for a P39.50 per kilo SRP on commercial well-milled rice to address the shortage of affordable rice in the market, despite the repeated pronouncements that production is increasing.
“Unless the government acts decisively to arrest unscrupulous traders who manipulate prices to assure profits into their pockets, the current average price of P43 per kilo of rice will become the new normal,” said Jaime Tadeo, spokesperson of the National Rice Farmers Council.
“As a matter of fact, there are several stores selling rice at P45 per kilo and higher. This is dangerous because it may spur increase in hunger incidence and the government’s touted economic gains will remain elusive to the poor majority of the population,” Tadeo added.
The groups called for stronger government intervention to the price spike as they also called on the government to review its own data and mechanisms of determining the real state of rice supply.
They said the government should be more vigilant in monitoring the behavior of players in the market so that the increase in prices will not happen again.
“Setting the SRP on commercial rice should lead to the arrest of unscrupulous traders who will violate this policy and the people will hold the government accountable if the problem persists despite the price control policy,” they said.
According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the average retail price of rice in the third week of June is P42.85 per kilo and has been continuously increasing from P41.57 per kilo in April to P42.19 per kilo in May. The average price of rice in June 2013 was P35.31 per kilo.
The same government figures show that farmers sold their palay at P20.25 per kilo on the average during their harvest in April 2014 and increased by P3.88 per kilo from the average selling price of P16.37 per kilo of palay in April 2013. As of the beginning of June 2014, farm gate prices rose to P20.83 per kilo from P16.53 during the same period last year.
“Surely, we should not blame the rice farmers, majority of whom live below the poverty line, for this P4.30 increase. The increase in their income is necessary to encourage them to continue planting rice to support the Filipino people’s food staple. The farmers deserve a better life,” said Aurora Regalado, R1 Convenor.
The retail price of well-milled rice rose from P35.41 in May 2013 to P42.19 in May this year, or a P6.94 increase. Alyansa Agrikultura Convenor Romeo Royandoyan stated that of this increase, P4.30 went to the farmers and P2.64 went to the traders.
Royandoyan said the middlemen’s cost over one year was only slightly affected by the low inflation and therefore, most of the P2.64 should go to consumers and not to middlemen.
“If the traders will not increase their profit margin higher than the inflation rate of 5 percent from last year, the retail price should be P39.66. This can be the starting point of the computation for the suggested retail price of well-milled rice, which in many places reached P45 to the detriment of the consumers,” he said.