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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Rice prices rising anew on holiday demand—group

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Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. on Tuesday threatened to cancel import permits that are not used within a month to buy an additional one million tons of rice to boost local stocks as price increases in the food staple have been noted in public markets.

In a TV Patrol report, Bantay Bigas said the Department of Agriculture set the price of regular-milled rice at P48 per kilo, but in public markets, this goes up to P53 per kilo.

The DA, however, assured the public of stable rice prices during holiday season, noting that the country’s buffer stock is still be enough for the next 90 days.

Despite downplaying the reported price hikes, the DA said that by ensuring the import permits are used quickly, it could better manage the supply of rice and avoid price surges that hurt consumers.

“I told them that if they will not use the permits within 30 days, I will cancel everything because I don’t want to be held hostage by permits that were issued to them upon their request,” Laurel told lawmakers during a House committee on agriculture hearing Monday.

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The DA expects total palay harvest this year to exceed 20 million metric tons, slightly higher than last year’s 19.76 million tons.

Total rice imports are projected at 2.86 million tons, down one million tons from 2022, barring additional imports in the coming weeks.

The DA said that based on current numbers, the country has a rice surplus of 2.98 million metric tons.

The additional imports will prolong the availability of rice supply until the next harvest season starting in March, the DA said.

The high global price of rice, due mainly to India’s ban on the export of non-basmati rice, has discouraged rice importation.

Laurel assured lawmakers that the department is closely watching the market while taking steps to ensure a sufficient supply of food items at affordable prices, particularly rice, sugar, and onions.

Meanwhile, House committee chairman Quezon Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga sought assurance from the DA that the price of onions would not shoot up like what happened last year when it soared to P700 a kilo in December.

Laurel said the prevailing market prices of red and white onion on Monday stood at P140 and P110 per kilo, respectively.

“I’m closely monitoring this (onion prices) and we will take steps so that the surge last year will not be repeated,” the agriculture chief said.

Laurel added there is ample stock of sugar, but most are already contracted to industrial users.

He said sugar should be selling at P85 a kilo, not P100.

“We will do some interventions soon to address this (price disparity) problem. Unfortunately, I cannot divulge publicly our plan of action through the efforts of the Department of Trade and Industry, Sugar Regulatory Administration, and DA,” he added.

The DA will likewise help farmers and fisherfolk amid the challenges brought about by climate change.

“Underlining our shared commitment to building resilient farming and fishing communities, this [year’s] theme [of “Bayanihan Para sa Klima: Bagong Bansang Matatag”] accentuates the importance of working hand-in-hand as we collectively fortify the agriculture sector against the challenges of climate change,” Laurel said during Monday’s kick-off ceremonies for Climate Change week.

“Climate change demands our prompt attention and concerted action.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has emphasized the critical need for implementing measures to adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change across various sectors, especially agriculture and food production,” he added.

The Climate Change Consciousness Week also celebrates the 10th anniversary of DA’s Adaptation and Mitigation Initiative in Agriculture (AMIA) Program which trains all communities, particularly those dependent on agriculture and fisheries, to become resilient to the increasing adverse effects of climate change.

AMIA, which has organized 181 model villages across the country, recognizes the need for adaptation and mitigation strategies to protect farmers, fisherfolk, and the environment.

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