In his report to the joint meeting of the provincial peace and order, disaster and drug abuse councils here on Tuesday, NFA-South Cotabato Manager Pangalian Busran noted that the prices of well-milled and regular-milled rice in the region stood at an average of P33 and P31 per kilo, respectively, as of April 22.
Southwestern Mindanao covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, Cotabato and the cities of Koronadal, General Santos, Tacurong, Cotabato and Kidapawan.
Based on the agency's monitoring from January to November last year, Busran said commercial rice prices in the area remained at an average of P23 per kilo but it slightly increased to P23.40 during the Christmas season.
From December to March alone, he said rice prices drastically went up by an average of P5 per kilo reportedly due to the increase in palay buying prices in the area.
"But since March until our latest monitoring on April 22, the prices further increased by P4 or an average of 32.50 per kilo for both the well-milled and regular-milled rice," he said.
He said the agency tried to offset the problem by releasing at least 31,897 bags of imported NFA rice in South Cotabato alone from January 1 to April 28.
He, however, said the NFA's market participation in the area only remained at 3.21 percent so far.
Busran said the NFA rice, which remained at P18.25 a kilo since November last year, was distributed mainly to its 183 accredited retailers, 125 Tindahan Natin outlets, three Bigasan ni Gloria sa Palengke outlets, Food for School programs of the departments of education and the social welfare and development, Philippine National Red Cross and National Disaster Coordinating Council, local government units, non-government organizations and religious groups.
Earlier this month, Busran said they have also increased their weekly allocations to accredited outlets and retailers to 8 to 13 bags from the previous 5 to 10 bags of the 5-kilogram imported NFA rice.
"Right now, we are trying to increase our inventory so can we can inject more of the cheaper NFA rice until the prices of commercial rice become stable," he said.
As of Tuesday, he said the NFA central office has already shipped to the province at least 85,608 bags of rice, mostly imported from Vietnam and Thailand.
He said they have a target allocation of 230,000 bags for this year.
He added that they expect another shipment of additional rice stocks by next month from the P260,000 bags allocated by the NFA central office for the Southern and Southwestern Mindanao area. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)