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Walang shortage, mahal talaga palay! Piñol admits rice won’t go down below P40 per kilo

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MANILA — Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol on Monday said the price of rice would stabilize by November, owing to the onset of the harvest season as well as the arrival of overdue rice imports.

“Rice prices will stabilize by November this year, pero hindi na po bababa ng (but it will not go lower than) P 40 per kilo,” he told lawmakers during a hearing on the Department of Agriculture’s proposed budget for 2019.

He said farmgate prices for palay were now at its highest level at P22 to P25 per kilo, while dry palay is being bought at P29 per kilo.

This is the reason why the price of rice will be between P40 and P42 per kilo when current prices begin to go down.

“But if it’s any comfort to us, the farmers are saying that for the first time, they are enjoying a very good price for their produce. This has resulted actually in the expansion of more rice areas,” he said.

“In the long run, I think this will level off. Kapag ginaganahan ang mga farmers natin sa presyo, lalo silang nagsisipag magtanim (If our farmers are satisfied with the prices, they will work harder and plant more), and that is the trend right now,” Piñol said.

He pointed out that rice farmers in Mindanao have already started harvesting their crop and the additional supply from the harvest season that would continue until December would bring the prices down.

“Ngayon nag-stabilize na kasi harvest season na (Now, it has begun stabilizing because it is already the harvest season),” the DA chief said.

Piñol said the current market prices were not due to a shortage of the staple but due to a combination of factors that led to “speculations.”

“Despite the report that there was a shortage, there was actually no shortage of rice,” Piñol noted.

He said palay production has reached a historic high of 19.28 million metric tons (MMT) last year, the highest recorded palay output in the country.

For 2018, the estimated palay production would be even higher at 19.4 MMT.

He pointed out that the delayed importation of rice to augment the buffer stocks kept by the National Food Authority (NFA), as well as the delay in the arrival of rice imports by private traders, led to the speculations that drove the prices higher.

The agriculture chief said the problem is not with the DA since the department “is not involved in the importation and in the distribution of NFA rice in the market.”

“Naglaro po ang market. Nagkaroon po ng speculation, siguro may hoarding na iba (There was speculation in the market, and there might even be some hoarding),” he said.

“Because of this, nag-taasan ang presyo sa merkado to the point that pati mga traders, nagpaligsahan sa pagbili ng mga palay ng mgafarmers (market prices rose to the point that even traders were competing in buying palay from farmers),” Piñol said.

Piñol said he would ask President Rodrigo Duterte to urge the NFA and the NFA Council to immediately take necessary actions in similar cases in the future to prevent a repeat of the situation.

“This year’s projected output is still short by seven to eight percent of our rice requirements. We have to import the deficit. Also, the projection is that rice supply in the world market would be tight next year,” he noted.

Piñol said he would also ask the President to make DA a permanent member of the NFA Council. (PNA)