Rice hoarding is economic sabotage, not a legitimate business strategy.
This was stressed by House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Karlo “Ang Probinsyano” Nograles on Thursday during the budget deliberations on the Department of Agriculture (DA) after DA chief Manny Piñol explained that hoarding rice was considered a legitimate business practice by some rice traders.
“We call it hoarding, but businessmen may call it inventory management. Depende sa pananaw natin eh. Sa kanila, it’s legitimate business, hawakan mo stocks mo, para pag taas ng presyo bitawan mo. That’s business for them,” said Piñol.
However, Nograles––a lawyer who obtained his law degree from the Ateneo School of Law––vehemently disagreed.
“It’s economic sabotage. Non-bailable [offense] yun. That’s price manipulation, that’s not inventory management,” stressed the legislator from Davao.
“[There] is a problem with how we distribute the NFA rice and make it accessible to people, kung may mga hoarders, may mga sindikato na gumagawa ng mga bagay-bagay para magkaroon ng artificial shortage.”
Piñol quickly clarified that he agreed with the Appropriations Chair’s view, adding that he does not agree with the said strategy employed by businessmen.
“I’m not claiming that I agree with their (businessmen) strategy. In fact, I agree that it’s economic sabotage. Tignan din natin yung perspective ng mga taong ito. So we really have to be very vigilant,” said Piñol.
Nograles had earlier urged the DA to make sure that the marching order of President Rodrigo Duterte to go after rice hoarders and smugglers is implemented, stressing that the manipulation of rice stocks was one of the reasons behind the increasing rice prices and the shortage of NFA (National Food Authority) rice in the market.
The Davao City solon also noted the current shortage of NFA rice in the markets. Considered the cheapest rice variety now available in the market, NFA rice is currently sold at P27 per kilo.
“Sa State of the Nation Address (SONA) ni Pangulong Duterte, he gave a very stern warning to all of these rice syndicates, rice smugglers, rice hoarders and all of these people.”
At this price, NFA rice is P14 cheaper than the average retail price of a kilogram of regular milled rice, which now costs P41 per kilo according to data from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
“Sa State of the Nation Address (SONA) ni Pangulong Duterte, he gave a very stern warning to all of these rice syndicates, rice smugglers, rice hoarders and all of these people. So what can you say about it?” Nograles asked Piñol during the panel’s deliberations on the agency’s proposed 2019 budget of P55.9 billion.
According to Nograles, some rice traders are purposely hoarding rice. “Tinatago nila, nagkakaroon tayo ng artificial shortage that drives the prices up.”
“[There] is a problem with how we distribute the NFA rice and make it accessible to people, kung may mga hoarders, may mga sindikato na gumagawa ng mga bagay-bagay para magkaroon ng artificial shortage,” Nograles said.
In response, Piñol said the observation made by Nograles was “not unfounded.”
“Last year, in General Santos City, the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) raided a warehouse where NFA rice was being repacked. So it’s not unfounded,” said the DA chief.
Piñol said dubious rice repacking activities involve the mixing of cheap NFA rice into commercial rice varieties. This way, he said, rice traders can turn in a bigger profit.
“I’m happy to report that since the President made his statement sa SONA, the Bureau of Customs, NBI and the police have already been scouring warehouses. In fact, there was already a raid conducted in Laguna which yielded P25 million worth of undocumented rice,” he told the Nograles panel.
Piñol added that the Bureau of Customs has done a “splendid job” in curbing rice smuggling in the country’s southern backdoor, where smuggled rice from Malaysia used to enter.