House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Karlo “Ang Probinsyano” Nograles challenged the present leadership of the National Food Authority (NFA) to act on rising rice prices and the shortage of NFA rice in the market after inspecting the supplies of the grain staple and speaking to rice retailers in Cagayan de Oro.
“The NFA administrator is right; we legislators should go out in the field and really look into the problems in the rice industry. The short recess of Congress provided an opportunity to go to our markets and learn firsthand about the prices and supplies of rice––and what I discovered is very worrisome,” said Nograles.
Last Friday, NFA Administrator Jason Aquino in a press statement challenged legislators and concerned parties to go around the country to learn more about the issues involving rice, saying that the NFA is “open for scrutiny anytime. Those who want to verify what we had been doing, can check our records, go around the country and ask the people.”
Nograles revealed that he discovered that there is a “large spike” in rice prices in Cagayan de Oro because the NFA has slashed the supply of NFA rice in Region 10 and diverted it to Region 9 to address the rice crisis in the Zamboanga Peninsula.
“According to the retailers I talked to, yung dating supply na 100 sacks per week ng NFA rice sa mga outlets ng palengke, ngayon naging 25 sacks per week na lang.”
“According to the retailers I talked to, yung dating supply na 100 sacks per week ng NFA rice sa mga outlets ng palengke, ngayon naging 25 sacks per week na lang. Dahil dito halos nag-aaway at nag-aagawan ng NFA rice sa merkado pag meron dumadating na NFA rice and obviously mabilis maubos,” lamented the solon.
As a result, explained the third-term congressman from Davao, the residents of Cagayan de Oro have no choice but to buy commercial rice.
The absence of cheaper alternatives in the form of NFA rice have also allowed commercial rice suppliers to dictate rice prices in the market.
“Sabi ng mga rice retailers dito, kahit linggo-linggo ang pag-akyat ng presyo ng rice suppliers, walang magagawa ang mamamayan. Kelangan nilang kumain. Pati mga rice retailers mismo nag rereklamo kasi syempre kada increase sa presyo karagdagang capital ang kelangan nilang ilabas,” said Nograles.
Nograles added that there are reports that rice traders would be jacking up rice prices now before rice supplies improve after the September harvest season.
“You can see that here in Cagayan de Oro, where the cheapest rice in the market goes for P45 a kilo, almost P3 more than the national average retail price of a kilo of regular milled rice; pero lumang stock na ito,” said Nograles.
“Noon kasi pag maraming supply ng NFA rice, kapag bumabaha ang supply ng NFA rice sa palengke hindi nadidiktahan ng middleman ang presyo ng commercial rice kasi may choice ang mamimili. Pag walang choice dahil walang NFA rice, kawawa talaga ang tao,” added the legislator.
“This is the domino effect of the NFA’s actions, or lack thereof. Pinagsasamantalahan nila ang mamamayan. Mga probinsyano unang tinatamaan. The NFA should work double-time to replenish stocks of NFA rice in Cagayan De Oro and around the country to stabilize rice prices, which is their mandate. The leadership of the NFA has to take responsibility and act on this soon. Either step up and take action –or step down.”