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Supermarkets urged to sell rice at P38 a kilo

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is asking major retailers to sell rice at a set price of P38, in a bid to help tame the soaring prices of the staple.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez told reporters on Tuesday that the proposal will involve allowing big supermarkets to import and then sell rice at the said price level.

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These firms will be barred from either raising or lowering their selling price even if the market begins to stabilize, he explained, noting that this will be part of their agreement.

The finer details of the proposal, however, are still under discussion, but Lopez said that he already had the approval of economic managers as well as Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol.

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“In my discussion with Secretary Piñol, we agreed that we’d ask these [major] retailers to already apply [so they could import and sell rice at a set price],” he said in Filipino.

This develops amid expectations that inflation in September might reach another record high in nearly a decade, given the devastation on the country’s agriculture products caused by Typhoon “Ompong.”

Whoever DTI taps, the market players will offer commercial rice at a price that will give much-needed relief to the B, C, and D markets, who otherwise will have to buy the staple at a range of approximately P45 to P48 a kilo, based on latest data on prices.

These markets, as per the trade chief’s conservative estimate, account for at least half of rice consumption.

“They (the retailers) could be audited to show their records. The point is it won’t leak to other retailers that are selling at P45,” he said.

Lopez estimated that these major retailers might need to immediately import 350,000 metric tons of rice, although he clarified that the final volume will still be determined by the National Food Authority (NFA).

He, however, said that sanctions for violating the agreement have not yet been thought of.

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While the trade chief deferred from dropping names, SM Supermarket and Robinsons Supermarket have some of the largest networks in the country, which can help DTI’s cause.

With this approach, DTI will make its presence felt in the commercial rice market, despite a rather problematic implementation of an earlier agreement to have a supermarket group sell NFA rice.

Members of the supermarket group  Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association (Pagasa), Inc. may even follow suit, he said.

However, it remains to be seen if the disgruntled group will agree, given its experience.

Pagasa was first approached by DTI and NFA to help in making the staple available to the public.

They agreed to have their member stores sell NFA rice.

Problems surrounding securing permits at a hefty price, among others, have made it difficult, if not impossible, to implement the agreement.

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TAGS: Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), rice, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez
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