THE Philippines’ total rice stocks decreased by 17.87 percent to 1.59 million metric tons (MMT) as of October 1 from 1.94 MMT a year ago, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.
The data came as the National Food Authority (NFA), backed by the Trade department and the Philippine National Police (PNP), began imposing penalties on those violating the suggested retail prices (SRPs) of the staple as officials from these agencies inspected a market in Sampaloc, Manila on Friday.
In its monthly “Rice and Corn Stocks Inventory” report, the PSA said the October figure was a 36.12-percent increase from 1.795 MMT in September, as rice imports continue to boost the NFA’s buffer stocks.
Stocks fell by 19.82 percent to 859,160 MT — about 54.04 percent of the total — in households; 14.56 percent to 602,300 MT (37.88 percent) in commercial warehouses; and 19.40 percent to 128,430 MT (8.08 percent) in NFA depositories from year-ago figures.
Stock in households, warehouses and NFA depositories rose by 40.80 percent, 34.82 percent, and 15.60 percent, respectively from September figures.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol had said the country is expected to lose about 800,000 MT of palay (unmilled rice) this year because of the typhoons that hit the country and slashed farmlands.
Warning for first-time offenders
On Friday, Piñol said those violating the SRP order the first time would receive a “written warning,” and those who repeat it would be fined.
Penalties for violators include canceling their NFA licenses, a jail term of up to four years and fines up to P1 million, he added.
“This is a measure that we are doing because we want to protect everybody. We don’t want to appear to be cruel or very harsh. But this is the process: first is a stern warning from the NFA and the second [is the] cancelation [of license] and filing of fines,” Piñol said in a DZMM interview.
According to him, NFA managers also risk being sacked if they fail to enforce SRPs in markets under their jurisdiction.
The government officially imposed SRPs for rice in markets on October 27, but penalties and sanctions could only be enforced 15 days after the publication of the guidelines for them as approved by the NFA Council.
For imported rice, the SRP is P39 per kilo for well-milled and P43 per kilo for premium.
For local, regular milled rice, the SRP is P39 per kilo; local well-milled rice, P44 per kilo. The SRP for premium rice should not be higher than P47 per kilo.
The SRPs do not cover special rice varieties, including Cordillera heirloom, organic rice, jasponica, Doña Maria, hinumay, malido, and malagkit.