Consumers last Thursday lined up in seven rice outlets of the National Food Authority hoping to get five kilos of the cheaper staple. The distribution system was changed Friday allegedly to get rid of “traders.”
BY LYN V. RAMO
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 9, April 6-12, 2008
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms north of Manila) – Consumers last Thursday lined up in seven rice outlets of the National Food Authority hoping to get five kilos of the cheaper staple. The distribution system was changed Friday allegedly to get rid of “traders.”
“Pangaasi yo ta awan ti agsubli-subli” (Please do not line up again) was what the sales attendant asked every one in the queue on the first day. On the second day, however, the system of distribution changed, this time requiring each prospective buyer a valid identification card that would entitle him or her to a purchase coupon, which he or she would claim one day after to get a three-kilo ration.
Seven National Food Authority (NFA) outlets have reportedly been set up here and in nearby La Trinidad in a desperate move to abate the sky-rocketing prices of the staple grains, according to a government source.
The city’s urban poor said, there are no available low-priced rice anywhere in the market but the NFA special outlets, which could not meet the demand for cheap rice.
The Department of Trade and Industry in a press statement said the NFA-Benguet office based in Baguio has set up six “Bigasan ni Gloria” outlets inside the city market rice section. Three of the outlets operate from Monday to Wednesday, another one from Thursday to Saturday and one operates even on a Sunday. In La Trinidad, Benguet, the NFA has also set-up one outlet in the town’s public market, according to the report.
The NFA rice is reportedly pegged at P18.25 ($0.44 at the April 4 exchange rate of $1:P41.76) per kilo and government warehouses in the region have ample supply.
Despite assurances by Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap that there would be no rice shortage, there has been no government control on rice prices. All the government has done was to order huge importation of rice from Thailand and Vietnam but it has not ordered any price control, according to Geraldine Cacho, chairperson emeritus of the Organisasyon ti Nakurapay nga Umili ti Syudad (Ornus), the urban poor alliance here.
A random inspection on the rice price in the city market and other outlets, however, reveal that the lowest tag price for rice is now at P29 ($0.69) per kilo. Other stores in the barangays (villages) retail rice at a minimum of P33 ($0.79) per kilo.
Speculations are rife that the price of rice could reach as high as P60 ($1.44) per kilo in July, when the government expects a low harvest due erratic climate in the last planting season.
The price of rice started to soar last month from P1,100 ($26.34) for the 50-kilo sack to P1,360 ($32.57). Last week the average price of the same 50-kilo bag had reached as high as P1,720 ($41.19) at the Baguio-Benguet Consumers Credit Cooperative (BBCCCI) in Baguio City.
Cacho said in an interview with Nordis that the urban poor have been anticipating the rice crisis as a necessary consequence of climate change and the overall economic crisis the country is experiencing. She said she understands that farmers could not plant enough due to erratic climate.
Cacho also said businessmen tend to hoard the staple because doing so is in their nature as profiteers.
“Agbalin manen a pribilihiyo ti makaraman ti inapoy” (Rice in the daily meal has become a privilege) she said, because the poor could hardly afford the price of commercial rice. The five-kilo ration per day could barely feed the urban poor extended family, she added.
Mitigating the price crisis
Cacho calls for a centralized rice procurement and distribution by the government. This, she said, is what the government should do if it is serious in abating the rice crisis.
“Ti gobyerno koma ti mangkontrol ti presyo ti bagas ta saan a ti kartel” (The government, and not the cartel, should control rice prices), Cacho said. Rice traders now control prices, instead of the government dictating it, she added.
Atty. Samuel Gallardo of the Business Regulation and Consumer Welfare Division of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) office here urged the public to report any unscrupulous activity like repacking of NFA rice and sold commercially. Gallardo said this violates the Deceptive, Unfair and Unconscionable Sales Acts or Practices or Republic Act No. 7394 and violators may be jailed or fined.
Word is spreading like wild fire in the Baguio City public market that certain groups of rice retailers also lined up in the NFA outlets Thursday and allegedly filled their display rice boxes with NFA rice passed on as commercial rice.
“This is not the issue at hand,” Cacho said, adding that the nationalization of the NFA, the immediate full subsidy for rice and the reversion of agricultural lands devoted to cash crops into rice lands may solve the rice crisis. She did not discount the idea that a genuine agrarian reform will ultimately provide long-term solutions.
The price of corn for animal feeds remain at P17 ($0.41) to P18.50 ($0.44) per kilo. With a report from Art Tibaldo, DTI-CAR Info / Northern Dispatch / Posted by (Bulatlat.com)