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RICE IMPORT LIBERALIZATION

Glory for consumers, calvary for rice farmers

/ 05:12 AM April 22, 2019

The rice import liberalization law, while not yet in full effect, is already seeing the benefits—just not without consequences as farmers continue to wallow in losses.

Based on the Philippine Statistics Authority’s price monitoring report as of the fifth week of March, a kilo of regular milled rice was priced at P39.91 and the well-milled variant at P44.07, slightly lower than P40.02 and P44.22, respectively, in the same period last year.

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The arrival of more rice imports is seen to cut retail prices in half over the next few years.

And even this early, speculations over imported rice forcing local supply out of the market have already pushed the farm-gate price for palay down to P18.80 a kilo, 8.83 percent lower than its average price of P20.62 a kilo a year ago.

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This is the 13th consecutive week prices have been on the downward trend.

In some regions, the farm-gate price has dived to as low as P14 a kilo.

National Food Authority (NFA) acting Administrator Tomas Escarez said the agency’s high buying price of P20.70 a kilo had pushed more farmers to sell their produce to the NFA.

In a statement released to the press, the NFA said it had already breached the 2 million-mark for procurements as harvests began peaking this month.

Initial reports from its field offices showed the agency had already secured a total of 2.12 million bags from January to the first half of April, majority of which came from Nueva Ecija, Occidental Mindoro, Isabela, Bulacan and Cagayan.

Now that the agency’s mandate is limited to procuring local palay and providing for emergency stocks, Escarez said they were now targeting to buy around 15 million to 30 million bags of palay this year—equivalent to 15 to 30 days of the country’s national rice consumption.

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