MalacaÑang on Monday assured the public that the increase in the prices of rice is only temporary.
Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the price adjustment is expected during the lean months. But he gave assurances that the prices of the staple will go down once the supply has stabilized.
The National Food Authority (NFA) has announced that commercial rice prices will increase by P1 to P2 per kilo starting this month.
Currently, regular milled rice sells at P40 per kilo, while well-milled rice costs P42 per kilo.
“Tinututukan ng NFA ang galaw ng presyo ng bigas, at ayon sa kanila, ito ay dulot ng market forces, dahil ito ay low-season sa supply at inaasahan nilang mag-i-stabilize ito kapag dumating na ‘yung inangkat na bigas mula sa ibang bansa, at inaasahan nilang magi-stabilize ang presyo sa susunod na dalawang buwan [The National Food Authority is monitoring the price movement. This is the low season, but they expect prices to stabilize once the rice we imported from other countries arrive],” Coloma said in a press conference.
He noted that “market forces” should be blamed for the hike in rice prices.
Officials earlier said the country’s rice supply has risen by 15.5 percent and should be adequate for more than two months. As of May 1, total rice stocks stood at 2.52 million metric tons, up from 2.18 million tons in the previous month.
Coloma said the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry are also closely watching the prices of garlic and ginger which had shot up to historic highs.
“Mayroong mga suggested retail prices para sa mga bagay na ito at hindi natin pahihintulutan na maging labis ang pagsingil o walang katuwiran [There are suggested retail prices for these products and we will not allow overpricing],” he said
The price per kilo of garlic has reached as high as P300.
Also on Monday, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) challenged Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan to reverse the trend of high rice prices.
KMP chairperson Rafael Mariano said the sudden hike in rice prices is unacceptable and unjust.
“Obviously, rice cartels are at it again. The P2 per kilo increase in rice prices is a manipulation by rice cartels coddled by the Aquino government,” Mariano said in a statement.
The KMP challenged Pangilinan to roll back rice prices.
“If Pangilinan is really serious in achieving food security, we challenge him to dismantle rice cartels, order a rollback on rice prices, and institute price control measures,” the KMP leader said.
“Rice cartels are aware that rice in government bodegas are not enough and that the big bulk of the stock inventory includes those already in the local market and households,” Mariano said.
The peasant leader also rejected Malacanang’s claim that the price increase is temporary.
“We already heard that in the successive increases in July and September last year and despite a bountiful harvest in the main cropping, rice prices were pegged at prevailing prices and never returned to the pre-price hike levels,” Mariano explained.