A House leader on Thursday appealed to the National Food Authority Council to discontinue its longstanding policy of allowing private traders to import rice, given that certain unscrupulous traders have cashed in on the system to corner the bulk of domestic supply and unduly jack up prices of this staple at the expense of ordinary Filipinos.
Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte made the call amid the current “artificial” supply problem.
At the same time, Villafuerte urged the NFA Council to put up a separate body that will monitor the supply and prices of rice, with the end goal of imposing a price ceiling.
“In the same way that there exists regulatory control on the cost of electricity, there should also be regulatory control on the price of rice to prevent the profiteering schemes of unscrupulous traders from upsetting the supply of the staple in the domestic market,” said Villafuerte.
Villafuerte earlier filed House Resolution 993 last May 2017 amid the then-unstable rice price and supply scenario in CamSur, or several months before the current situation has become a nationwide problem.
“We need to fix the existing system to shield both farmers and consumers from the shady practices of private traders that have left the NFA helpless in carrying out its primary task of ensuring the stability of the price and supply of rice in the market,” he added.
“Clearly, the present setup doesn’t work, as greedy grains traders have managed to game the system by cornering domestic supply through imports and heavy purchases of locally produced stocks and, in the process, managing to influence and dictate retail prices through a seemingly ‘artificial’ supply deficit,” he said.
Under the current system, the NFA has the sole authority to import rice, but the NFA Council allows private traders to similarly purchase stocks from abroad through the NFA.
Villafuerte said the NFA Council, chaired by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr., should do away with the current system of allowing private traders to facilitate rice importations as “this setup obviously does not work in the face of the recent price spike of the grain in the retail market, which could apparently be traced to the hoarding done by unscrupulous businessmen that has created an artificial supply shortfall.”
He said the rule of thumb is that palay (unmilled rice) bought from farmers should only have a 100-percent markup once milled and sold as rice in retail outlets.
“At the current average farmgate buying price of P20 per kilo of palay, regular milled rice should be sold at around P40 only,” he said. “But right now you can see that regular-milled commercial rice sells for around P43 to P50 in retail outlets.”