RICE PRICES continued to go up in the first week of August despite government efforts to counter the upward pressure by increasing domestic supply with imports of the grain.
Farm gate prices of the country’s staple food inched up from the previous week, both for well-milled and regular-milled rice, with two more months before the end of the lean season, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported.
In its latest price monitoring, PSA-Bureau of Agricultural Statistics said that wholesale prices of well-milled rice average P41.37 per kilogram, or 0.32 percent higher from last week’s level and 16.83 percent from last year’s; while the retail price of P43.92 per kilo was 0.39 percent higher from last week and up by 18.19 percent from a year ago.
On the other hand, prices of regular milled rice in wholesale markets averaged P38.47 per kilo, a 0.29 percent markup from last week, and 19.81 percent higher than last year’s level; while retailers were selling their stocks at P40.45 per kilo, or 18.55 percent higher during the same period in 2013.
The continuous arrival of rice imports in government warehouses has failed to bring down the prices of commercial rice as local traders buy palay, or paddy rice, at an average farm gate price of P21.53 per kilo, up 20.35 percent from last year’s level.
At present, the National Food Authority (NFA) has about 25 days’ worth of rice stocks in its warehouses in Metro Manila. The stock inventory at the national level, on the other hand, is only enough for 14 days at 445,000 metric tons. Both are well below the required 30-day buffer stock for the lean months, which will end in September.
Presidential Assistant for Food Security Francis Pangilinan earlier directed the NFA to increase daily rice releases to 10,000 MT from 6,000 MT previously to counter the effects of price increases.
NFA sells regular milled rice for P27 per kilo while the well-milled rice costs P32 per kilo.
The massive disbursement of government rice stocks may further deplete the already thin buffer stocks in NFA warehouses, leaving a big portion of the current rice stocks in the hands of commercial traders.
To address the dwindling supply of rice held by the state-run grains agency, Pangilina proposed the importation of 500,000 MT of rice, with an open bidding to be held on August 27.
The NFA has also approved, on standby, the importation of another 500,000 MT in the later part of the year in case it needs to further beef up its withdrawals.
On Monday, the NFA conducted a pre-bidding conference for the planned importation of 500,000 MT of rice. The pre-bid meeting was attended by rice traders, observer businessmen and representatives from the embassies of the United States, Thailand, and Vietnam.
So far, at least six traders—namely Vinafood 1, Vinafood 2, Louie Dreyfuss Inc., LG International, ADM Rice Inc (USA), and Olam International Ltd. (Singapore)—have bought bidding documents.
Manila’s planned importation this year is the biggest under the Aquino administration and comes close to the 2009 level of 1.8 million MT of rice.