Abusama M. Alid, regional agriculture director, echoed denials issued by Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap and other high government officials the country was facing a rice shortage.
Alid assured Southwestern Mindanao’s 3.8 million inhabitants of sufficient rice supply amid price increases, saying the region had a surplus of 146,219 metric tons of plain rice at the end of 2007.
“The surplus can still feed the regional population for about 4.3 months or from January to April,” a regional rice sufficiency level report said.
The surplus was on top of the region's palay production for the first quarter of 2008. From January to March this year, palay harvested in the four provinces of the region reached 384,241 metric tons, data from the regional agriculture office showed.
North Cotabato contributed a palay output of 165,092 metric tons during the period; Sultan Kudarat, 105,795 metric tons; South Cotabato, 105,690 metric tons; and Sarangani, 7,664 metric tons.
On the other hand, the regional Agriculture office projected palay production for the April to June period in the area to reach a yield of 114,690 metric tons.
But despite the surplus claimed by the regional agriculture office, residents in this city, the regional seat of government, have complained of rising prices of rice as well as scarcity of supply.
The M-1 rice variety, for instance, has reportedly soared from at least P22 per kilo to P28 to P31 a kilo in supermarkets, while fancy rice varieties such as the 7-tonner have become scarce in the wet sections of malls.
The regional office of the National Food Authority will render a report on the situation of rice supply in the area on April 7.
In South Cotabato, Pangalian B. Busaran, provincial NFA director, attributed the rising prices of rice to the global market.
“Remember, we also import rice from Vietnam and Thailand,” he said.
For locally produced rice, Busaran said the price adjustment is expected since private traders have been buying palay at higher farm gate prices.
With the average buying price of palay at P15 per kilo, the rule of the thumb is that the cost of rice will be P30 per kilo, he explained.
Private traders used to buy palay at farm gate prices of between P9 and 11.50 per kilo in the past few months, various sources said.
Late last year, the NFA adjusted the price for its rice products by 25 centavos or from P18 per kilo to P18.25.
Dianne Silva, NFA-Southern Mindanao assistant regional director, explained that the price increase in NFA rice was meant to offset the social cost relative to the increase in the buying price of palay.
NFA-Southern Mindanao has jurisdiction over General Santos City and Sarangani province. (MindaNews)