DA to open ‘Bigas ng Masa’ outlets in GenSan

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 12 March) — The Department of Agriculture (DA) is set to open “Bigas ng Masa” outlets here in a bid to address the rising prices of commercial rice.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol relayed such move to a city official in response to problems posed by the dwindling rice stocks of the National Food Authority (NFA) in the area.

Farmers in Antipas town, North Cotabato harvest rice amid a severe El Niño phenomenon in this photo taken on April 5, 2016. MindaNews file photo by TOTO LOZANO

City Councilor Franklin Gacal Jr. said Piñol promised to bring the “Bigas ng Masa” program to provide local residents access to cheaper but quality rice supplies.

He said these outlets will sell rice to local consumers at P38 a kilo, which is cheaper than the prevailing prices of various commercial rice varieties.

The official said he initially informed Sec. Piñol through text message last week of the looming problem on rice supplies in the city.

He said Piñol responded in “less than five minutes” and promised such solution to address the problem.

Gacal said he reported to Piñol that the NFA here only had 5,900 bags of rice.

“I raised the problem of the coming shortage of NFA rice here because the available stock of the NFA for the city will last only for a week,” he said.

Gacal said NFA personnel here expects the augmentation of imported rice set by the central office to arrive in June.

“That means GenSan will have no NFA rice for three months. The poor will now be forced to buy commercial rice, which is expensive,” he said.

He said such situation might cause the prices of commercial rice to further surge due to the increase in demand.

“We don’t want this to happen. So in the next session of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (Tuesday, March 13), I will sponsor a resolution requesting the NFA and DA to make rice available (for us here),” he added.

DA launched the “Bigas ng Masa” program last month to counter the surge in commercial rice prices as a result of supposed “artificial shortages.”

The agency initially opened the rice outlets, which allows consumers to purchase at least 25 kilos of the cheaper rice, in Metro Manila but vowed to expand it to other areas in the country. (MindaNews)