Prices of rice in Zamboanga City hits P70 per kilo

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DAVAO CITY  (August 23) —  Residents in Zamboanga City are up in arms against the spiraling cost of rice sold at P50 to 70 due to rice hoarders and rice manipulators.

Residents from the provinces of of Zamboanga, Basilan , Tawi-tawi and  neighboring municipalities  need to endure the high prices  for lack of choice but they are demanding for the Department of Agriculture to explain to the public.

Christina Vilarino, 34, mother of six, in an interview said “Wala na man kaming magawa kasi ganyan na ang presyo ng bigas, kahit magreklamo kami, bibili pa rin kami.”

Amina Mampa, 41, a retailer  said “Di namin alam bakit mahal masyado, ang sabi ng Department of Agriculture marami na daw ani, pero bakit walang nakaratiing na bigas dito sa amin, di talaga namin alam ano ang totoo sa sinasabi nila na marami ng harvest.”

Zamboanga City representative Celso Lobregat confirmed that the price of rice shot up as high as PHP70 per kilo in the city.

Lobregat claimed the shortage of commercial rice supply is a result of the crackdown against smuggled rice which are usually downloaded in Zamboanga port.

Yesterday, House Appropriations Committee Chair Karlo Nograles urged the National Food Authority (NFA) to look into the possibility of “price manipulation” by rice traders in Mindanao.

Nograles made the call following reports of soaring rice prices in Zamboanga City, ranging from PHP50 to PHP70 per kilogram, due to shortage of the staple there.

Nograles also cited reports of rice prices in other areas of Region IX (Zamboanga Peninsula): Dipolog, Zamboanga Del Norte, PHP55 to PHP60 per kilo; Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur, PHP55 to PHP60 pesos per kilo; Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur, PHP55 to PHP60 pesos per kilo; and Zamboanga City, PHP60 to PHP68 per kilo.

“Even accounting for less than optimal weather conditions, the discrepancy of the prices in the Zamboanga peninsula is huge. Masyado pa rin pong mahal ang presyong ito (The price is still higher [than the average]). Prices like these put a huge strain on the limited budgets of families who just want to have three square meals a day. The NFA should check if something illegal is going on,” Nograles said.

Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Nograles said the average retail price of a kilo of regular milled rice in the country is PHP42.26, while the average retail price of well-milled rice is PHP45.71 per kilo.

Nograles also raised the possibility of rice hoarding by unscrupulous traders, which could be a reason for the high prices. “They’re manipulating the market in their favor but this is making probinsyanos suffer. Ang dami na pong nagsusumbong sa akin (A lot of people are complaining to me). The NFA must find out if this practice occurs in Zamboanga City alone or in the entire Zamboanga peninsula,” he said.

Sometime April 2017, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said he is against rice importation saying the country has enough supply to cover the demand.

It was on the same date that he publicly declared that the agency is “against the immediate lifting of the Quantitative Restriction (QR) on imported rice on the ground that the Filipino rice farmers are not yet ready to compete with their counterparts in the region because of low productivity and high production cost.”

He added that there is no need to import rice because of the increased national average yield of local farmers.

“For the first time in the history of the country, the national average yield per hectare is now at 4.15 metric tons per harvest, up from 3.9 metric tons,” Piñol noted. “Ayaw ko nga mag-import dahil sagana ang ani ngayon! Where’s the logic?” he added.

While the Agriculture department claims rice sufficiency, residents of Zamboanga continue to endure the soaring price of rice, yet, no one dare to explain why rice supplies or surplus produce from other regions in the country did not reached the Zamboanga market, if there is indeed enough supply.-Editha Z. Caduaya with report from PNA

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