The government expects the retail price of rice to fall by an average of P3.40 per kilo once tariffication is achieved, Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza said Friday.
He said quickly raising the domestic production of the staple was the only sure way to stabilize prices.
“This is what the Department of Finance is claiming: That rice prices will go down by around P3.40 per kilo once tariffication is in place,” Atienza said.
He said boosting local output remained “the ultimate solution to elevated prices.”
“Right now, we need forceful and hands-on remedies to swiftly raise rice harvests,” he said.
Meanwhile, farmer cooperatives are selling their unmilled rice to the National Food Authority in Iloilo as the food agency launches its P3/kg Buffer Stocking Incentive at the KABSAKA Triplex, NFA Compound in Jaro, Iloilo.
The farmer cooperatives will deliver and sell 1,300 bags of unmilled rice to the NFA.
Other cooperatives in the province will simultaneously deliver 2,078 bags of unmilled rice at the NFA’s Pototan Grains Center.
Atienza cited the need to clean-up rice farm irrigation channels obstructed by mud deposits that tend to pile up after every flooding due to extreme rainfall, or whenever dams have to dump excess water.
“Many small rice farmers have complained that they are simply not getting enough irrigation when needed, because canals meant to deliver water to their lands have been blocked by debris,” he said.
To address the problem, Atienza urged the Department of Labor and Employment to enlist thousands of idle but able-bodied citizens in the countryside to manually dredge the clogged watercourses.
“The DOLE has hundreds of millions of pesos at its disposal every year for emergency jobs. It should spend the money right away to sign up laborers to open up these jammed water ducts,” Atienza said.
“This way, the government will be hitting two birds with one stone. It will be creating gainful employment for the jobless while helping to pave the way for higher rice farm productivity.”
The country’s economic managers have blamed the spiraling food costs since the start of the year on soaring rice as well as fuel prices.
In a price update released on Oct. 11, the Philippine Statistics Authority said the average retail price of well-milled rice was P49.30 per kilo in the first week of October, up 16.55 percent from P42.30 a year ago.
The average retail price of regular milled rice stood at P46.04 per kilo, up 21.13 percent from P38.01 a year ago.
Malacañang has already certified as urgent the Rice Tariffication Bill, or the proposed Act Replacing Quantitative Restrictions on Rice with Tariffs and Creating the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.
Under the bill, rice import quota restrictions would be scrapped in favor of a fixed tariff.
This is meant to encourage private traders to bring in additional rice supplies from abroad and help ease potential local shortages.
The government would then use the tariff income to raise the productivity of local rice farmers through improved mechanization and irrigation as well as new post-harvest facilities and farm-to-market roads, among other things.