Rice to sell in Kadiwa stores at P30/kg in July

By Rose de la Cruz

Barring any major damage to palay production during the ongoing harvest, the government is hopeful about selling rice through its Kadiwa stores at only P30 per kg and lower by July.

Considering that current retail prices are above P50 per kg for regular and well-milled rice, let us see how this planned retail prices would be implemented.

At the House of Representatives meeting on Monday with officials of the Department of Agriculture, it was agreed that government would bring down rice retail prices at P30 per kilogram by July this year, as part of the amendments the President is seeking on the Rice Tariffication Law and the charter of the National Food Authority.

At first glance, this is very promising and impressive– from the present levels of P51 to P54 per kg. For regular-milled local rice and P56 to P60 per kg for well-milled.

Perhaps the meeting factored in the ongoing dry season harvest– which is being badly affected by the ongoing El Nino and the huge price of rice in the global market brought about by widespread speculations on global production amid El Nino. Are they expecting an abundant surplus production to be able to bring down prices this low? Or will they twist the arms of private traders to release stocks to ensure that prices would go this low? What would they give the traders to obey them?

As the El Nino continues to rage, the number of rice-producing provinces that have borne the brunt of the extreme heat continues to increase by the day, although fresh harvest (which is wet and muddy) would benefit from quick drying from intense heat.

As far as the President knows, rice prices continue to rise because the government (National Food Authority) can’t participate in the local market– hence can’t influence price and supply– as part of its commitment to multilateral funders, through the Rice Tariffication Law. Thus the President is throwing his full support to amending the RTL and the NFA charter.

The Philippine Statistics Authority released last week its data showing that a kilogram of regular-milled rice is averaging at P51.41 from April 15 to 17, higher than the prices on April 1 to 5 of P51,.38 and on March 15 to 17 of P51.21 per kg.

The RTL, which expires next year, is  up for review and renewal. RTL also created the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund or P10 billion a year in tariff revenues for advancing and modernizing the agriculture sector.

Speaker Martin Romualdez on Monday said the House and the DA are jointly working to reduce the price of rice to below P30 per kilo (with the President’s campaign commitment of P20 per kilo rice during his term)  in certain parts of the country by the second semester.

“We are confident that it is possible to offer rice below P30 per kilo as early as July this year. The DA is currently identifying the areas where affordable, well-milled rice will be made available to the public,” the Manila Standard quoted  Romualdez as saying.

“Although we cannot yet achieve this throughout the entire country, we can start in selected areas identified by the DA. We hope that this initiative will soon reach all parts of the country, especially after the amendment of the Rice Tariffication Law,” he added.

President Marcos said amending the rice tariffication law could enable the government to influence or regulate rice prices, especially in the procurement of palay (unhusked rice) and the distribution of rice to the public.

Romualdez earlier estimated that rice prices could potentially decrease by P10 to P15, nearing the P30 per kilogram mark, with the amendment of the law which permits the unrestricted importation of rice into the country.

DA Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. said pending the amended rice tariffication law, the NFA may be authorized to sell affordable rice through KADIWA centers, which can be established nationwide with the support of local government units.

“Starting in July, some of these KADIWA centers will be operational in specific regions and will offer affordable, well-milled rice five days a week. The operation of these centers will depend on the rice supply available to the NFA,” Tiu Laurel said.

“Gradually, we aim to increase the number of KADIWA centers across the country with assistance from local government officials. Many have volunteered to provide public spaces for these centers,” he added.

Sen. Cynthia Villar meanwhile proposed the immediate passage of Anti Agricultural Economic Sabotage Law to control the middlemen and traders.

The measure, which has been certified as urgent by the President, states that there shall be severe sanctions on the nefarious acts of smuggling, hoarding, profiteering, and cartel of agricultural and fishery products as a measure against the manipulative scheme of economic saboteurs.

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