MANILA – Why are local rice prices going up? According to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, there is nothing unusual with the recent increase in the price of commercial rice because millers bought palay from local farmers at higher prices during the dry season.
The agriculture chief said farmers earn more when the price of well-milled rice increases.
"Mahal din po ang bili ng mga mill sa mga magsasaka. First time po na pinakamahal na ganito dahil actually, ‘yung pamimili din po nila, dahil din po sa dry season crop. Kapag dry season crop, talaga pong premium ‘yung bigas," Alcala said in an interview on ANC's Headstart.
“Kasi hindi naman po nagtaas dahil gusto lang nilang magtaas ng presyo pero dahil talagang binili lang nila ng mas mahal sa magsasaka dahil gusto nilang may hawak silang supply eh.”
Alcala also highlighted the role of the Bureau of Customs to combat rice smugglers, saying rice supply in the local market was affected due to a clampdown on rice smuggling.
He said the price of rice from the National Food Authority remains unchanged since 2011.
Meanwhile, the agriculture chief announced that contrary to public perception and despite the increase in rice prices, the Philippines’ rice sufficiency level has increased.
“From 82% po tayo in 2010 sa food sufficiency level natin, naging 96% percent po tayo last year. Ang ebidensya po niyo ay we are the world’s number one importer of rice in 2010. At sana po nakita niyo - nabatayan niyo naman po ako eh – hindi po ako nagbago sa focus ko to lower the importation of rice dahil po sa alam ko na nakakapagproduce ‘yung local.”
He also cited the recent study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which proves the growth of the Philippines in terms of rice production.
“And recently, last week po, nagbigay ng pronouncement ang USDA at sinabi po doon, for the past five years, ang Pilipinas po ang number one sa growth ng rice production sa buong mundo.”
“Hindi po ibibigay sa atin ng USDA ito [kung hindi totoo]. Pero buong mundo po tayo ang number one dahil nabitbit natin ang ating production buhat sa 2011 hanggang sa 2013. Although, ako po ay humihingi ng paumanhin, from time to time, sinasabi ko na hindi ko na-hit 100% sufficiency na sinasabi ko.”
LESS DEBT, INCREASED PRODUCTION
When asked about the current state of the NFA’s debt, Alcala said that it actually decreased when President Benigno Aquino III’s administration took over.
“Noong pumasok po ang administrasyon ni Pangulong Noynoy Aquino, P177 billion po ang utang ng NFA, ngayon po nasa – I think – P155 million na lang.”
He said the agriculture department is now studying the rice production techniques of other countries, particularly Vietnam’s which has one of the lowest cost of rice in the world.
“Nagpa-survey tayo: ano ang ginagawa ng katabi nating bansa? How much are they producing? Thailand is producing 8.40, I think, China is producing somewhere in P10, kagaya ng Pilipinas but Vietnam is producing P5.60. Tayo po mahigit sampung piso. Kasi po libre ‘yung kanilang irrigation, tama ‘yung kanilang tulong ng gobyerno.”
He said the government has already launched the 10-5 challenge, a program that aims to give solution to the increase in the prices of rice.
“So ngayon, tayo po ay nag-design ng program kaya po isinulong naming ‘yung 10-5 challenge. At meron pong magandang resulta. We have a dream of producing 10 metric tons per hectare at P5 per kg production.”