“For the entire year, palay harvest is expected to reach 218,348 metric tons, which when converted into rice would be about 141,928 metric tons. The rice consumption in the province is placed at 93,000 metric tons so we still have a surplus of nearly 50%,” Reynaldo H. Legaste, South Cotabato government chief agriculturist, told reporters here.
On the other hand, Pangalian B. Busaran, provincial director of the National Food Authority, assured of cheap rice in the market. He said he has requested 230,000 bags of imported rice from its central office.
He added they have so far received only 50,439 sacks and that the rest was still to come.
He said the provincial NFA office has a P10-million budget for palay procurement starting January “but has not been utilized since farmers prefer to sell the harvest to private traders due to higher buying price.”
NFA-South Cotabato is presently buying dried palay at P13 per kilo, inclusive of P1.50 in subsidy from the provincial government.
Mr. Busaran said they are still waiting for an order from the main office to raise the buying price of palay to P17, as directed by President Gloria M. Arroyo recently.
But Gov. Daisy P. Avance Fuentes asserted there is a rice crisis contrary to claims by the national government.
“If there is no rice crisis, then why are prices of rice soaring?” she asked.
Ms. Fuentes, an opposition stalwart, said the rice problem has become a “blessing in disguise” for Mrs. Arroyo as it has diverted public attention from corruption scandals plaguing her administration such as the botched National Broadband Network deal.
Mr. Busaran meanwhile said the NFA has discovered 23 accredited rice dealers violating its trade guidelines.
He said they have punished the unscrupulous accredited rice retailers after monitoring teams discovered that they have been passing rice allocations to other rice traders not accredited by the NFA.
The other common violation committed by the retailers was the delayed displaying of NFA rice in accredited outlets as markets opened for the day, he added.
“We meted them penalties ranging from suspension to a cut in rice allocation,” he said in a press conference here.
The erring NFA-accredited rice retailers came from the towns of Norala and Banga and in this capital city, he added.
The NFA services 183 accredited rice retailers, 125 “Tindahan Natin” outlets and three Bigasan ni Gloria sa Palengke stores.
However, despite assuring there was enough rice supply, Mr. Busaran said the provincial NFA office could only allocate five sacks per week to each accredited retailers since March, apparently to avoid hoarding.
Fruto Sumagaysay, a rice retailer at the public market here, lamented that previously, an accredited rice retailer can get 50 sacks of rice from the local NFA office a week.
“If the government can infuse such volume of rice again, it can contain the soaring price of ordinary rice,” Mr. Sumagaysay said.
He added that flooding the markets with NFA rice will also pull down the prices of ordinary commercial rice, such as the M-1 variety, as most consumers would prefer the P18.25 a kilo NFA rice. (MindaNews)