Legarda to DA, NFA: Address High Rice Prices, Ease Burden on Poor

September 26, 2013

In the wake of assurances from the Department of Agriculture (DA) that rice prices would stabilize after the country’s lean season and statements from the National Food Authority (NFA) that its inventories this year were greater than those in 2012, Senator Loren Legarda called on the DA and NFA to explain why rice prices have yet to drop to pre-lean season levels.


“Last week NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag said, and I quote, ‘the NFA inventory is bigger this year compared to the same period last year, and so we don’t foresee any shortage.’ But I have yet to see the positive impact of this on rice prices,” said Legarda, who had earlier filed Senate Resolution No. 233, which paved the way for the Senate inquiry into the rice situation of the country.


At the hearing, Legarda had asked officials of the DA and NFA “bakit talaga despite the buffer stock, despite na mas maliit ngayon iyong epekto sa climate change sa bigas, ay tumataas ang presyo.” (“Why despite the buffer stock, why despite the fact that the decreased impact of climate change on rice this year, prices are still going up.”)


2013 rice prices significantly higher than last year


Legarda said that according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), the retail prices for regular-milled and well-milled rice are almost four pesos higher than last year. Regular-milled rice cost 32.4 pesos last year; this year it costs 36.1 pesos. Well milled-rice in 2012 was 35.6 pesos; today it costs 39.2 pesos.”


“If you look at the trend last year, the retail prices of regular-milled and well-milled rice slightly peaked during the lean season, as expected, then normalized. This year, not only have the price hikes during the lean season been significantly higher, they have also failed to normalize at the expected time,” explained Legarda.


In 2012, retail prices of regular and well-milled rice remained relatively stable, according to data from the BAS website. In the lean months and months preceding and following the lean months (between June and September 2012), the retail prices of regular-milled rice ranged from a low of 32.2 pesos per kilo in June to a high of 32.5 pesos in August. In the same period, well-milled rice cost as low as 35.3 pesos in June and was highest at 35.7 pesos in August.


Legarda said that 2013 was a different story.


“The rice prices this year are a cause for concern,” said the lawmaker.


“This year, the prices really shot up; between June and September, we experienced an almost four-peso jump in the retail prices of regular and well-milled rice.”


“For many of our people who live a hand-to-mouth existence, every peso counts. Every peso added to the cost of our staple food is an additional burden they should not have to bear,” lamented the senator.


Legarda added that rice prices continued to belie DA and NFA claims of adequate rice supplies.


“If there are adequate supplies of rice, our markets should feel it, rice prices should go down. The best proof of supplies of rice is its price. Until these remain at its present levels, we must continue to ask the DA and NFA to act, and act now.”