Amid the blame game that agriculture and food officials seem to have resorted to, the price of rice went up by P5 per kilogram, much to the consternation of consumers.
Rising rice price and allegations of corruption in rice importation prompted lobby group Ang Gawad Pinoy Consumers Cooperative, represented by social entrepreneur and economist lawyer Tonike Padilla to nudge Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan Calayag to “stop pointing fingers” and instead focus on ensuring that the country has a steady supply of affordable rice.
”The DA and NFA exist to ensure that our citizens have an adequate supply of affordable rice, and in response to reports that the supply of rice is on a downswing and that there are those who have profited from the importation of rice, our agriculture chief has instead chosen to blame others for the inability of the DA to do its job so that he can keep his job” Padilla bewailed.
He also lamented that, “Secretary Alcala has chosen to focus on job security, not food security.”
Padilla was referring to statements from the DA and NFA blaming rice traders and hoarders for raising rice prices, and unnamed groups “affected” by the reforms of the DA and NFA for the “smear campaign” against the said agencies.
Rice millers have denied allegations of hoarding, while the DA and NFA have yet to identify those allegedly behind the “smear campaign” linking the agencies to the P457-million overpricing of rice imports.
”The bottom line is this: today the price of rice increased by P5 per kilo, and Secretary Alcala blaming rice millers for these increases will not make it any easier for our people to put food on the table,” the lawyer added.
Rice millers have blamed the shortage of palay for increasing rice prices, and have belied the agriculture secretary’s claims that palay supply was adequate.
Padilla stressed that all the conflicting reports on rice supply and the exchange of accusations further emphasized the need for Congress to conduct a probe on the rice situation in the country, lest it suffer a repeat of the 2008 rice crisis.
”When will Congress look into this? When long food lines have formed in our markets? When our people can no longer afford rice? If Secretary Alcala believes there are shady figures behind these problems then Congress can help him investigate. But if rice millers are right and the DA has been misrepresenting its figures on rice supplies, then we have to act quickly to avert a crisis,” he said.