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Duterte says no rice shortage, warns hoarders

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Contrary to what is perceived that there is a rice supply shortage, President Rodrigo Duterte says otherwise and warns rice hoarders.

Duterte said, “I know there are rice hoarders out there. Don’t make me raid your warehouses and seize the rice. You are hoarding because you want to sell it at a higher price.”

 The President also mentioned during conversation with his Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo that NFA Administrator Jason Aquino has requested to be relieved. Thus, he will seek a new one.

Several lawmakers have been calling for the resignation of Aquino since the NFA rice shortage has caused the commercial rice prices to shoot up from P42 to P70 per kilo.

The President has also floated the idea of abolishing of the NFA council, the policy making body composed of 11 government agencies, including the Office of the President, which grants or denies the NFA’s request for rice importation. He said, “I will recommend Congress to abolish the NFA council.”

There was also a call to abolish NFA but this did not gain so much interest from lawmakers because the NFA serves to prevent to rice hoarders and cartels to play around the price of rice.

 In the claim of the President that there is no rice shortage, according to the latest date from Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) our rice inventory dropped to 1.52 million metric tons in August, down 25 percent from last year’s stock of 2.02 million MT. This figure is 24 percent below the previous month’s stock level of 1.99 million MT. This means that there is indeed a rice shortage contrary to what the President is saying.

The PSA however, did not tell for how long the rice stock would last, but based on the average daily consumption of Filipinos of 32,000 MT, the current inventory is just enough for 48 days.

Meanwhile, the National Food Authority (NFA) still has limited inventory of three days from the mandated 30 days and even if imports started arriving three months ago, the stocks were distributed to markets to bring down prices of commercial rice.

There are about 385,000 MT out of the 500,000 MT of imported rice have arrived in the country. But another 250,000 MT will be imported for the fourth quarter, bringing total imports for the year to 750,000 MT.

With the harvest season nearing starting next month, this could help augment national inventory. However, the super typhoon Mangkhut locally named Ompong which threatens the Northern Luzon may likely affect the upcoming harvest in both Central Luzon and Cagayan Valley region which is considered as rice granary of the Philippines.

NFA Administrator Aquino urged the agency’s field offices, especially in rice producing areas, to be more aggressive in their palay buying strategies.

Aquino said, “We will not wait for the farmers to bring their produce, but rather go out to the farthest and remotest barangays to buy their harvest, especially in areas where the prices offered by private traders are below the government support price.”

The NFAhas reactivated its mobile procurement teams, which are coordinating with farmers’ organizations and local government units to inform them about the NFA’s procurement scheme and incentives.

Last month, the NFA has only procured a total of 75,753 bags, which is roughly around three percent of its target 2.6 million bags for the whole year. NFA’s low procurement performance during the summer harvest was attributed to the high palay farm-gate price offered by private traders ranging from P20 to P28 per kilogram.

With the planned importation and the start of the harvest season, the government is expecting rice prices to stabilize by November but will unlikely reach below P40 per kilo.Retail prices of rice ranged from P44 to P48 per kilo. So far, this is the first time that price of rice in the Philippines has posted double-digit price increases as much as P70 per kilo.

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