SEN. Loren Legarda remains unconvinced with claims of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the national Food Authority (NFA) that rice prices would stabilize after the country’s lean season as she demanded explanation from the agencies why rice prices remains high.
Legarda noted that despite of assertion last week of NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag, that the NFA inventory is bigger this year compared to the same period last year, and there is no shortage, she has yet to see positive changes on rice prices.
“If there are adequate supplies of rice, our markets should feel it, rice prices should go down. The best proof of supplies of rice is its price. Until these remain at present levels, we must continue to ask the DA and NFA to act, and act now,” Legarda said.
Legarda said that based on the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the retail prices for regular-milled and well-milled rice are almost four pesos higher than last year’s.
She noted that the current price of regular milled rice is at P36 which is higher than last year’s P32, while well milled rice in 2012 was P35, lower that the current P39.
“If you look at the trend last year, the retail prices of regular milled and well milled rice slightly peaked during the lean season, as expected, then normalized. This year, not only have the price hikes during the lean season been significantly higher, they have also failed to normalize at the expected time,” Legarda pointed out.
The NFA, during the hearing of the Senate agriculture committee, claimed that the country has enough buffer stock of rice to the point that even if rice traders refuse to sell rice the government can provide rice for the entire country for 30 days.
But agency officials can’t provide the committee a clear explanation as to why the prices of rice remain high.
“For many of our people who live a hand-to-mouth existence, every peso counts. Every peso added to the cost of our staple food is an additional burden they should not have to bear,” Legarda lamented.