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A looming rice crisis?

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An official of the farmer’s group Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) warned of a repeat of the rice crisis in 2018, saying the scenario being experienced at present – on the spike of rice prices and possible shortage – was similar.

FFF national manager Raul Montemayor said in an interview that while the country’s rice will be enough until June, a deficiency in the staple could happen during the lean months, from July to September.

“If you recall, in 2018, regular rice reached P45 (per kilo) because of the rice crisis. The situation in 2018 is equivalent to the situation now and at the time, the NFA (National Food Authority) still had the authority to import, unlike now,” Montemayor said.

He said that Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law removed the power of the NFA to import.

Montemayor said the government should not allow a repeat of the crisis experienced during the administration of then president Rodrigo Duterte. “I hope (queueing) would not happen and government should look for a solution,” he added.

He also warned that hoarders will take advantage of the situation if another rice crisis happens. “Every time we have a crisis, unscrupulous traders take advantage, just like what happened to the onions. The government needs to act as we have a problem on rice,” he said.

Based on monitoring of the Department of Agriculture, the retail price of local regular milled rice reached P40 per kilo; local well milled rice at P46; local premium rice, P49; and local special rice, P60. On the other hand, imported rice ranged from P44 to P58 per kilo.

Montemayor said the proponents of the RTL failed to anticipate the possible spike in rice prices in the world market when they removed the authority of the NFA to import and sell rice in the markets. He urged government to review it.

A rice crisis, if it happens, will be a catastrophe for Filipinos as well as the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., who famously promised to lower the price of rice to P20/kg during the campaign period, which probably explains why he took on the Agriculture portfolio upon assuming power.

However, instead of simply hoping that Montemayor is wrong, the Department of Agriculture needs spring into action as soon as possible, to ensure that no crisis involving the Filipino’s staple food breaks out, especially after we have seen how onion prices went up to ridiculous levels during the crisis involving that non-staple vegetable.

Rice is the staple food of Filipinos. As such, government has to make sure that its availability and affordability are always at controllable levels, no matter what happens.*

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