Sec. Piñol warns the rice stakeholders on the penalties of rice hoarding during the discussion

Concerned rice stakeholders met with the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Manny Piñol at Apacible Conference Room in Quezon City while the onion and garlic stakeholders convened at the Office of the Secretary Conference Room on August 17, 2018, to address the issue on the rising price of the said commodity.

Organized by the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF), the meeting aimed to discuss and come up with proposed measures on the cause of the increase of prices in the market.

During the dialogue with the rice stakeholders, they clarified that there is no rice shortage in contrast to reports that the country’s buffer stock will only last for about five days.

According to the retailers, the price hike started when the National Food Authority (NFA) rice depleted in the market.

Due to false speculations, local traders started buying any available harvest which resulted in unprecedented increase in the farm gate price of fresh palay at PhP29/kg, the highest price recorded in history.

Rice industry stakeholders said that prices are expected to stabilize when the harvest season starts in mid-September towards early December.

However, there are also concerns that the farm gate price will suddenly decrease after the delayed arrival of imported rice, which was supposed to come during June to August.

Likewise, rice traders have denied reports on rice hoarding. According to them, they are continuously releasing their stocks due to current high price of rice in the market.

Sec. Piñol emphasized to the rice stakeholders that the President has an appeal to them to ensure stable supply of rice at fair prices.

They were warned that if caught rice hoarding, penalties include temporary or permanent closure of warehouses, confiscation of stocks, and imprisonment of up to 15 years.

In response to the issue on the delayed arrival of imported rice of the National Food Authority (NFA) or through the Minimum Access Volume (MAV), Sec. Piñol assured that DA will submit a recommendation to the Office of the President to direct all ports to give priority on the unloading of imported rice, for immediate distribution to different warehouses and consumers.

To have a timely importation, Sec. Piñol also proposed to come up with a system with harmonized schedules for the bidding and awarding of MAV allocations and importation which will be perfectly pinned during the lean months to support supply and maintain price of rice.

On the other hand, during the discussion with the onion and garlic stakeholders, onion importers stated that one of the factors contributing to the high price of onions in the market is the imposition of Special Safeguard (SSG) on imported onions.

In response, Sec. Piñol asked the DA staff to initially list the pros and cons of lifting the SSG. He also emphasized that the lifting of SSG will only be done during the period when there is no local supply.

As of August 23, 2018, Sec. Piñol temporarily lifted the SSG on onions after meeting with the onion traders which will “cushion the impact of rising prices and mitigate the impact of soaring inflation.” – LC