THE National Food Authority (NFA) disclosed that there are irregularities in the rice prices in Negros Occidental but "minimal" and assured that is within manageable level.

"It would be very minimal since retailers are also anxious to increase prices of rice in the market as this would affect demand," the NFA said.

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Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, meanwhile, ordered the NFA to investigate reports that rice is being overpriced in some markets in Metro Manila and other urban centers.

In Negros, Grains Retailers Confederation President Nonito Nacion assured to freeze the threatening price increase.

While rice price in Manila has increased by P2 per kilo which NFA said was the aftermath of Typhoon Ondoy that resulted to a low turn-out in the rice production but assured of enough supply for consumption in the province as procurement of palay in Central Negros is ongoing. Central Negros is the major rice-producing area in the province.

Nationwide probe

Department of Agriculture (DA) has directed the NFA to deploy monitoring teams to check on rice price and supply movements nationwide to avert any artificial shortage and prevent unscrupulous traders from taking advantage of the situation.

Yap warned rice traders against overpricing saying that the government will not hesitate to revoke their license if they are found violating the rice trading rules and regulations.

He also assured consumers that there is sufficient supply of rice across the country and the government has enough stocks to stabilize the market.

DA likewise assured the public not to panic "since there is no cause for alarm."

To date, NFA inventory shows 996,000 metric tons (MT), which is sufficient for 28 days at a daily consumption rate of 36,300 MT.

The country's total rice inventory is estimated to last for 77 days with commercial rice stocks placed at 460,000 MT and household stocks at 1.350 million MT, a government figure reported.

NFA rice remains at P25 per kilogram nationwide in accredited rice outlets such as "Bigasan sa Palengke", "Barangay Bagsakan", among others. (George M. De La Cruz)