TO suppress the rising cost of garlic and other commodities due to obvious price manipulation, President Benigno Aquino 3rd has ordered the “unloading” of confiscated goods, especially garlic, once tests proved that they are still good for public consumption.
“I did instruct them that if it has passed and in conformity with the laws, we will unload all of this confiscated garlic to again ease the pressure on prices,” the President said on Tuesday. He was referring to the Department of Agriculture (DA), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Bureau of Customs.
“So toward that end, one of the things that I had tasked the DA and DTI and Customs [bureau]actually to do is phytosanitary testing for the garlic that has been confiscated by Customs,” he added.
He had directed the deployment of rolling stores specifically on the items that are subject to the price increases. But despite the “substantial” volume of the unloaded goods, Aquino noted that effect on prices was “not as substantial.”
Clearly, he said, some traders have been manipulating prices of these commodities because there was no problem with supply. The President again warned that price manipulators and hoarders will be slapped with “hefty fines” and criminal cases when apprehended.
“The supply is abundant but the price keeps on getting jacked up. So that’s the issue. Somebody [is]manipulating the prices rather than [letting the]law of supply and demand [take place],” he said.
According to him, there is increased monitoring activities and enforcement of pertinent rules and laws by the DTI regarding the retail market, implementing strictly the suggested retail pricing on manufactured and processed goods.
“Those who will be found to violate the Price Act and [continue]the unauthorized selling of rice will be subjected to very hefty fines and criminal cases will also be filed,” he said.
Aquino noted that many traders have been made to answer for their misdeeds, apprehended and charged.
He said the government is also monitoring movements in the prices of milk, bread and other dairy products that are mostly imported.
“We will be taking steps to minimize the impact of such [on prices],” the President added.
To arrest the s in the prices of garlic and rice, the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization has called for implementation of a Suggested Retail Price (SRP) scheme for the two commodities.
Francis Pangilinan, who was appointed to the post on May 5, made the disclosure also on Tuesday when he attended a congressional inquiry into the price increases conducted by the agriculture and food and food security committees.
“The DTI is already looking at implementing an SRP, which is an old practice. We are still waiting for DTI’s recommendation, but I see the SRP’s implementation as a measure that will help balance the interests of consumers and the retailers,” Pangilinan told the House panels.
The price of well-milled commercial rice—the most widely consumed in the country—hovers around P42 per kilo or way higher than the price of the National Food Authority’s well-milled rice at P32 per kilo.
Garlic prices are pegged at P300 to P400 per kilo.
DTI Undersecretary Victorio Dimagiba said an SRP would be a more feasible solution than implementation of a more pointed price ceiling that is being proposed by Rep. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list.
Pangilinan said price of well-milled commercial rice has stabilized at P42 for a month now, and that it is expected to stay that way.
The NFA already imported 800,000 metric tons of rice this year and is looking to import 200,000 MT more to replenish NFA’s buffer stock.