What shortage? Rice stocks good for 3 months – Sec. Pinol

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews / 08 February) – The country’s rice stocks will last for about three months and there is no truth to reports that there is shortage, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Pinol on Wednesday said.

In an interview, Pinol, citing data, said the country produced 19.4 million metric tons of palay in 2017, believed to the biggest in the country’s history.

“Let’s be clear. The shortage refers to the buffer stock of the NFA (National Food Authority). It’s not the national rice supply,” he said.

Harvesting rice in Davao. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

“In fact, our stocks are enough for our consumption for the next 96 days,” he said.

“What the NFA is complaining about is that they have no more buffer stocks to stabilize market prices. You may have noticed that in the last days, there has been a drastic increase in rice prices in the market. And that’s unreasonable,” he said.

Pinol blamed “cartels” for allegedly “maneuvering” the prices in the market.

In Kidapawan City, the Grains Retailers Confederation (GRECON) in North Cotabato has complained of limited stocks of NFA rice.

GRECON Cotabato president Carmelito Bacus said in an interview Tuesday that each accredited NFA rice retailer was only given five sacks of NFA rice monthly.

Bacus said this would explain why the prices of commercial rice, especially those considered premium, have increased by P5 per kilo.

But Pinol said “I don’t see any reason why the price in the market would be P45 or P50. Somebody is making a ‘kill’ and obviously the money doesn’t go to the farmer, and the consumers are being robbed in broad daylight.”

The secretary said that of about 5.8 million MT of rice available in the market for the next 96 days, at least 2.7 million MT of this came from the rice surplus in 2017 and the rest would come from the farmers’ harvest until March this year.

The country’s daily consumption of rice, Pinol explained, is estimated at 31,450 MT or a total of 2.8 million MT for the next three months.

“If you would deduct these 2.8 million MT of rice consumption of the Filipinos for the next 96 days, we still have 3 million MT available stocks of rice in the market. With these data, what rice shortage are they talking about?” he asked.

The country, he said, is suffering from an “anomalous food chain” where traders not the farmers dictate the prices of rice.

He lamented that the government has no control over it.

He said that for every 5,000 hectares of rice farm, with a buying price of P17 per kilo of palay, traders would earn P50 to P60 million per harvest season.

“That should have been earned by the farmers themselves. We have to correct this,” he said.

Pinol suggested that the NFA should stop relying on rice imports and buy instead from the farmers for its buffer stocks.

He, however, noted that farmers are discouraged from selling to the NFA because it requires a moisture content of 14 percent. “The process is long. Payment takes long.”

Bacus meanwhile said that the limit imposed by the NFA on rice stocks released to retailers will mainly affect the beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and the indigenous communities in Kidapawan. (Malu Cadelina Manar/MindaNews)