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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Rice may hit P60/kilo, group says; DA pushes P1.3t for harvest tools

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Prices of regular-milled rice could reach P60 per kilo, the watchdog group Bantay Bigas warned Wednesday as it urged the government to monitor the prices of the staple.

Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said prices of regular-milled rice in large markets in the National Capital Region now range from P54-P55 per kilo.

“In other markets, P60 is already their cheapest (for well-milled). The premium varieties range from P65 to P68. But the P54 is already a heavy burden on the pockets of our kababayan,” she said in a radio interview.

“Prices can increase even more given that we are facing an El Niño phenomenon,” Estavillo added.

She appealed to the government to ensure that the price of regular-milled rice does not hit P60 per kilo.

For his part, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel underscored the urgency of investing at least P1.3 trillion to boost rice production, reduce wastage of agricultural products, and ensure the country’s food security.

“No major post-harvest facility was funded by the government in the last 40 years. What we have are small projects that are actually irrelevant (and) useless. What a waste. We really need to fund these projects. But we must build bigger,” he said.

Building integrated rice mills and warehouse complexes will reduce an estimated 15 percent in losses in rice due to the lack of post-harvest facilities.

The rice facilities will save around P10.7 billion worth of staple or an additional 23 days of rice inventory, which is equivalent to around 10 percent of rice imports based on last year’s figures, Tiu Laurel said.

For 2024, the DA allocated P1 billion to build four cold storage facilities at the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) Complex in Taguig City, to partly address the recurrent oversupply and wastage of vegetables in parts of Luzon alone.

Transporting vegetables from Benguet to Metro Manila, according to traders, resulted in 30 percent losses that are eventually passed on to consumers.

“If we try to solve the problem as soon as possible, assuming a target of 2025, I need an additional P5 billion to address the vegetable cold-storage issue of the whole nation,” the DA secretary said, adding that a 5,000-pallet position cold storage facility in FTI will take at least 12 months to complete.

As this developed, Tiu Laurel said the country will forge a five-year rice deal with Vietnam during President Marcos’ state visit later this month.

He said the draft memorandum of agreement would guarantee the supply of the staple to the Philippines, especially during calamities.

“We were given instructions when we were in the ASEAN meeting in Japan by the President to draft, finalize the MOA with Vietnam, so that it will be signed during his state visit to Vietnam at the end of January,” he said.

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