Farmers, consumers: BBM’s rice price ceiling still too high

Rice prices may be lowered by several pesos more than President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s price ceiling of P41 to P45 per kilo of regular to well-milled varieties, farmers and consumer rights advocates said.

Following Marcos’ issuance of Executive Order 39 issued last Thursday, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said rice prices could be as low as P30 to P37.40 if only the “rule of thumb” in pricing is imposed instead.

“For example, if the rice traders bought palay at the median price of P19 to 22 per kilo, the retail prices of palay may be more than P11 lower after drying, milling, hauling and transportation expenses are factored in,” KMP said.

The said rule of thumb allows traders and retailers to earn reasonably, the group added.

KMP said Marcos was obligated to order a price ceiling after the retail prices of rice spiked to as high as P50 to P60 in the past weeks.

But beyond price ceilings, KMP said the government should dismantle the rice cartel that controls the rice industry in the country.

The Bureau of Customs has recently raided warehouses in Central Luzon it said hoards rice and manipulates rice prices.

The farmers’ group also renewed its call for the repeal of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Liberalization Law and the restoration of the National Food Authority mandate to buy significant volumes of palay from local producers.

KMP added that the government should focus on strengthening local rice production instead of importation.

India, a traditional source of imported rice, has earlier announced it will cut back on rice exports in anticipation of lower yields because of the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Consumer rights group Suki Network echoed KMP’s position that the new price ceiling is still too expensive without wage increases and financial aid to the poorest sectors.

“It will also be more helpful if the government extends genuine assistance to small farmers,” the network added.

Meanwhile, Malacanang Palace said the price ceiling shall remain in full force and effect until lifted by the President.

The President also told reporters in his briefing that he ordered the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Interior and Local Government, and the Department of Justice as monitoring agencies of the rice price ceilings. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)