NGO: Rice price should be lower by now but it's not

By Jennifer A. Ng, Reporter

Businessmirror, May 30, 2008

THE price of regular rice in the domestic market should be lower
following the claims of the Department of Agriculture (DA) that the
tight supply of rice has softened as reflected by the decline in the
price of the produce in the international market, according to a
nongovernment organization involved in the rice sector.

Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) also urged Agriculture Secretary
Arthur Yap to investigate why the prices of rice remain high and
therefore unaffordable, despite claims from several sectors that the
tight supply of rice has softened.

"We have seen raids and arrests of alleged suspects of rice hoarding,
but we did not see and hear anybody gets proven guilty and therefore
penalized. More important, the measures are obviously not enough to
keep the prices from going up, despite the harvest in March-April this
year," said R1 lead convenor Jessica Reyes-Cantos.

R1 noted the figures released by the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics
(BAS) under the DA wherein palay production reached 3.75 million
metric tons (MMT) in March this year and is slightly higher than last
year's record by 1.96 percent.

The group also pointed out that Conrado Ibañez, National Food
Authority's (NFA) assistant administrator and assistant secretary who
heads the private sector auction committee, declared that the weak
response from traders on Tuesday's rice tender showed that local
demand for rice "may not be as intense as compared with several weeks

"The question remains, where are these supplies that will supposedly
soften the impact of very steep global prices of rice? The government
cannot possibly blame the farmers of holding on to their palay because
they also need to secure rice for their own consumption," said Cantos.

According to BAS price monitoring, the prices of rice in the market as
of May 27, 2008, range from P33 to P37 a kilo. The prices of rice on
February 27, 2008, just before the prices rapidly increased, range
from P24 to P28 per kilo.

Cantos cites the NFA for selling rice in the commercial market at P25
per kilo but this should be widely available to present a credible
threat to commercial rice traders who continue to sell at very high

"We are worried that the price will not go back to the pre-crisis
level but it should taper [off] a bit to make the staple food more
affordable to poor consumers and farmers," said Cantos.



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