GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 Oct) – The National Food Authority (NFA) is closely watching markets in South Cotabato following reports of possible rice hoarding by local retailers and millers.
Avelino Usman, NFA-South Cotabato manager, said the move is part of their ongoing efforts to ensure the availability of rice in the local markets in preparation for the predicted onslaught of another El Niño phenomenon or long dry spell in the area.
He said they are also monitoring the market prices of commercial rice as well as the distribution of NFA rice by its accredited retailers.
Usman said they will always make sure that there are enough rice supplies in the markets “at any given time.”
The NFA had earlier said an artificial rice shortage happens when traders and millers deliberately limit the distribution of rice stocks so they could control the market prices.
In early 2008, several areas in Mindanao were affected by an artificial rice shortage that saw the prices of commercial rice rising to as high as P51 per kilo.
Usman said they recently met with rice millers to discuss the problem and its direct impact on the economy.
“They assured us that no rice hoarding will happen within their ranks,” he said.
In an advisory, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) earlier said the El Niño will likely hit various parts of the country beginning October 2012 until May 2013.
The El Niño, which is caused by an abnormal warming of surface ocean waters in the eastern tropical Pacific, will initially cause below-normal rainfall that would later progress into drier conditions, it said.
Usman assured the public that the NFA has enough rice stocks to sustain the current requirements of the province’s 10 towns and lone city.
He said their standby inventory comprises palay stocks, imported rice and milled local rice.
With a population of around 800,000, the province needs 117,075 metric tons (MT) of rice annually.
Last year, South Cotabato produced a total of 310,410 MT of palay or equivalent to 172,658 MT of milled rice.
“Our current inventory could last for 34 days,” Usman said.
He said the agency’s intensified palay procurement program is currently ongoing through their two buying stations in Koronadal City and in the municipalities of Surallah, Banga and Norala.
Usman said they also dispatched a truck that regularly makes rounds in identified palay production areas in the province to purchase palay from local farmers.
The NFA’s support price to individual palay farmers is currently at P17.40 per kilogram and P17.70 per kilogram to members of farmer-cooperatives and organizations. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)