Runaway rice price alarms Legarda

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A lawmaker on Tuesday expressed dismay over the failure of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the National Food Authority (NFA) to keep rice prices stable, rather than blame the weather for the recent price adjustments.

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Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, noted that the two government agencies failed to prevent rice price hike despite the NFA assurance that the country has sufficient supply even during the rainy season.

“As the agency responsible for ensuring the stability of rice prices, it is incumbent upon the DA and NFA to anticipate the adverse effects of these weather disturbances on rice supplies and take the measures necessary to prevent these from negatively affecting rice prices,” Legarda pointed out.

Based on the information she obtained the prices of rice have increased by P2 to P5 a kilo in the past month.

And according to the NFA spokesman Typhoons Labuyo and Maring may have caused the rising rice prices because the weather disturbances hit some of the country’s major rice-producing provinces in Luzon.

“The DA and NFA should be prepared for the worst and should not use this as an excuse whenever they are unable to meet the targets they themselves set,” she added.

Legarda last week filed Senate Resolution 233 calling for an inquiry “to determine the actual state of the rice supply in the country and the role and policies of the Department of Agriculture and National Food Authority relative to our goal of achieving rice sufficiency in the country.”

The senator wants agriculture officials to explain why the DA and NFA were unable to take action on possible rice shortages despite possessing rice supply projections that showed that the effects of climate change would create a shortfall in rice supplies.

The 2011-2016 Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) prepared by the DA provides scenarios that should have allowed agriculture officials to act on possible shortages.

Legarda said that, the inquiry would provide an opportunity for the Senate to evaluate the DA and NFA’s projections and see if the DA and NFA have been doing enough to ensure rice supplies in the face of the negative effects of climate change.

The DA, according to her, has been bullish about palay production and claimed that the country is on track to meet rice self-sufficiency goals in 2013.

“However, while optimism is good, it is not a substitute for sound, rational policies and programs, especially when it comes to something as important as our country’s food security,” Legarda stressed.

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