THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it does not expect rice prices to rise significantly during year-end holidays.
Agriculture Undersecretary Mercedita A. Sombilla told reporters on the sidelines of the Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) anniversary that the DA is working on mitigating further price surges in the staple grain.
She said supply will be ample, “especially with the expected imports coming in.”
In the year to date, the Philippines imported 2.71 million metric tons (MT) of rice as of Oct. 12, according to the Bureau of Plant Industry.
She reiterated that a return to rice price controls is no longer necessary, heading off speculation of rising prices.
“That’s really just speculation. We really have to avoid (imposing) price caps again, noting that price controls have “created tensions” in the market.
A farmer’s group has called for the re-imposition of the P45 per kilogram (kg) price cap on well-milled rice in November, alleging that traders are creating “artificial” conditions to justify high prices.
The government had imposed in August a temporary price cap on regular-milled rice of P41 per kg and on well-milled rice of P45 via Executive Order No. 39.
“We have to have normal market conditions … especially that we are now harvesting,” Ms. Sombilla added.
The DA said last week that it is expecting production of palay, or unmilled rice, to hit 20 million MT this year.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), palay output fell to 19.76 million MT in 2022 from 19.96 million MT a year earlier.
In an address to the FFF, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. said the government will push to boost local production to minimize the need to import food.
“I wish to reaffirm one of the top priorities of this administration, which is the enhancement of our agricultural productivity, the guarantee of our food supply, the affordability of our food supply, and our lessening dependence on imports,” Mr. Marcos, who is also the Secretary of Agriculture, said.
He added that the government is attempting to mechanize the industry, reduce post-harvest losses and ensure optimal yields.
He said increasing agricultural exports will be “an essential driver in the competitiveness of our economy.”
Agricultural exports declined 24.4% to $1.61 billion in the second quarter, the PSA reported. This accounted for 27.2% of total trade.
Mr. Marcos added that to hit these targets, the administration has proposed more funding for agriculture next year.
“With a substantial budget of P85.88 billion for 2023, and a proposed budget of P92.4 billion pesos for 2024, I am optimistic that we can propel the modernization of our agri-fisheries sector,” he said. — Adrian H. Halili