• Rice prices may rise on planting, import delays

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    The price of rice is expected to rise because of late planting and import delays, a Department of Agriculture (DA) official said on Wednesday.

    Edilberto de Luna, DA assistant secretary for Field Operations, told reporters that higher farmgate prices of palay were likely until the end of October after farmers in some rainfed areas deliberately delayed their planting, afraid their crops would be affected by El Niño.

    “There are some movements in the planting calendar because farmers fear that there will be insufficient water supply and delayed rainfall in these areas,” said de Luna, who is also the coordinator for the DA’s National Rice Program and National Corn Program.

    Planting in about 77,000 hectares of rainfed areas were delayed, he said. Instead of cropping in June, farmers started in July, which means harvesting will begin by October.

    Because of the interruption in the cropping calendar, the harvest is expected to reach 3 million metric tons in the third quarter of 2014, lower than the 3.3 million MT a year ago, de Luna said.

    Lower production during a quarter following a lean season, as well as delays in the arrival of imported rice will push up the staple’s prices, he said.

    “At P18-P21 per kilogram of palay would be a ‘good price’ for farmers. That’s why there’s the imported rice…to stabilize prices (for the consumer side),” de Luna said.

    The so-called lean season is from June to September. It is also the time when the government, through the National Food Authority (NFA), buys rice from abroad to help stabilize retail prices.

    The problem is that the NFA has not worked out its rice procurement plan after a failed bidding for the 500,000 MT of rice last week.

    The increase in daily rice releases by the NFA – from 6,000 MT to 10,000 MT – has also failed to hold down the prices.

    If no imported rice comes in, prices could soar as the government draws from its rice stocks, depleting it further.

    As of August 20-26, palay’s farmgate price was P21.30 per kilogram, down by 0.42 percent over the previous week. Compared to the previous year’s level, it was still 17.23 percent higher.

    Prices of well-milled rice in the wholesale market averaged P41.26 per kilo, or 0.53 percent lower from the previous week. But it was up by 13.60 percent over the last year’s level. A decrease of 0.14 percent was recorded for retail rice with an average posted price of P43.95 per kilo.

    The average price was still higher than last year’s by 15.23 percent. For regular milled rice, wholesale and retail prices further scaled down. The average wholesale price of P38.35 per kilo was cheaper by 0.08 percent from last week’s level but was more expensive by 15.34 percent from a year ago; while retail prices of P40.58 per kilo was down by 0.20 percent from last week but was 15.71 percent higher from last year at P35.07 per kilo.

    De Luna said the DA is “clustering” rice-producing areas so it could reach the 19.07 million MT target for this year.

    “Whatever production we lost due to delays in cropping, we are catching up so that it will still accrue in the last quarter of the year,” he said.

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