Despite President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s optimism to fulfill a campaign promise, a lot of dominoes must fall before his administration can successfully bring down the price of rice in markets to P20 per kilo, government executives and consumer groups said Friday.
The long-term solution would be for the government to give rice farmers a subsidy and build the agricultural infrastructure—to provide cheap fertilizer, seeds, and post-harvest facilities, and ensure year-round irrigation—that would help bring down current prices, two Department of Agriculture officials said in television interviews.
The President is also the concurrent Agriculture Secretary, and on Thursday said he is still hopeful that his dream of P20 per kilo of rice for Filipinos will come true, noting that Kadiwa stores organized by the government were already selling the commodity at P25 a kilo.
But Rosendo So, president of the group Sinag, said farmgate prices of palay or unhusked rice were currently at P23.50 a kilo—twice as high as the ideal price that rice traders would buy it from farmers to turn it into rice and still make a profit.
Palay bought at this amount leads to at least P40 per kilo of milled rice, he added.
“For markets to sell rice at P20, traders must buy palay at P12 (a kilo), and we don’t see that happening during this cropping season,”
So said in an interview with ABS-CBN.
“If the price of fertilizer falls back to P800 (a kilo) and fuel (diesel) costs go down to P32 (a liter), and if they give seeds to farmers for free, we think we can get to P25, realistically within one and a half years,” he added.
While Kadiwa stores were currently selling rice at P25 a kilo, the private sector was still supplying them with the grain, and in limited supply, explained DA Assistant Secretary Rex Estoperez.
The private suppliers also could not make the prices of rice supplied to Kadiwa stores uniformly across the country since their procurement cost “varied by island,” Estoperez explained. “In Manila, they are getting rice at P38 to P42 per kilo (for selling at Kadiwa).”
He echoed the impossibility of hitting the P20 target this harvest season since the price of fertilizer alone—an imported commodity—was still high owing to the effect of the Russia-Ukraine war, thus would not affect Filipino rice farmers’ productivity this year.
Another DA executive, Asec. Kristine Evangelista, told ABS-CBN that once the correct post-harvest facilities and irrigation systems are in place, local rice production would increase. A reduction in rice wastage would also help the government bring down the price of palay,and thus the price of rice. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
The group Bantay Bigas also noted that rice prices were in fact risingthis month, and to bring it down government must buy at least 25 percent of local farmers’ production and offer more subsidies.
“The price of well-milled rice actually went up by P4 a kilo this March. We don’t know where the government is getting its figures,” said Bantay Bigay spokesperson Cathy Estavillo.
AGRI party-list Rep. Wilbert Lee, meanwhile, said if the government could continue to subsidize fertilizers, seeds, and irrigation costs for farmers, the price of rice would ultimately go down.
However, the government has not brought down rice prices to sub-P30 levels since it allowed the National Food Authority to sell the commodity, branded as NFA rice, at P27 per kilo in select areas.
The government stopped the practice when the Rice Tarrification Law went into effect in 2019 under the Duterte administration.