CITY OF SAN FERNANDO — Various groups have reported that the “affordable” P39-per-kilo rice being broadcast by the National Food Authority (NFA) cannot be found in markets in Metro Manila and the provinces, amid shortage of rice that poor folk could afford.
“We have scoured major markets and rice retailers in Metro Manila but we did not see the P39 per kilo of ‘cheap rice’ boasted by the NFA. It’s a big hoax. The rice crisis is worsening, and we can only blame the Duterte government for this,” said Kilusang Magbubukind ng Pilipinas (KMP) secretary general Antonio Flores in a statement.
In a separate statement, the rice watchdog Bantay Bigas and National Federation of Peasant Women or Amihan also aired the same observation, noting that the NFA’s “relatively affordable rice, priced at P27 and P32 per kilogram, has vanished.”
Flores said the lack of rice supply in the hands of the government started at the beginning of this year. “This is more than just a problem of supply. The rice industry is liberalized and deregulated, with the private sector dominating the industry. This leaves the government without any effective control and policy direction on the production, supply, marketing, and pricing of rice that is considered as a socially-sensitive product,” he lamented.
“Importing 250 million metric tons of rice is not even a palliative to the ‘cheap rice’ shortage. Importation will never be the solution when it is among the root problems of the perennial rice crisis,” he added.
Flores said “rice prices continue to go sky high. There is no affordable rice available in local markets. The rice supply is in the hands of private rice traders. Aging rice stocks are left rotting in NFA warehouses and ports.”
“Rice smuggling remains unabated. The rice cartel must be celebrating. They are profiting so much from the government’s incompetence and the people’s growing hunger,” he said.
He also noted that “the unending political bickering and infighting between Malacanang and NFA officials also doesn’t help at all. Consumers will always be at a losing end in this situation.”
“For a rice-producing and rice-eating country like ours, these worsening problems of the rice industry are unacceptable. Day in and out, our local rice farmers do back breaking work in the fields, yet the domestic rice industry is in this deep mess. Significant policy reforms should be undertaken with political will,” Flores added.
Zenaida Soriano, Amihan national chairperson, said “Pres. Duterte should acknowledge this rice crisis and study it from the sphere of production to circulation or distribution. The government is essentially abandoning both the welfare of the producers or farmers, and the marginalized sectors as consumers, such as the urban poor.”
“Imported rice will definitely bring about the displacement of farmers through bankruptcy and indebtedness, consequently, diminishing self-sufficiency and food security.”