THE National Food Authority (NFA) in Negros Occidental is strictly monitoring the compliance on the just-implemented suggested retail prices (SRPs) for rice among retailers in the province, its top official said.
Frisco Canoy, provincial manager of NFA-Negros Occidental, on Tuesday, November 13, told SunStar Bacolod that the SRPs for milled rice actually took effect on November 11.
This is 15 days after the implementing guidelines were published in a newspaper of general circulation on October 26.
On Friday, November 9, NFA-Negros Occidental already met and briefed some local retailers on the SRPs as well as price tags and labeling.
Canoy said all local retailers should already be in compliance with the rice SRPs starting this week thus, they continue to conduct regular monitoring among markets and other areas where rice is sold.
"Though, some retailers might have not yet implemented the guidelines or still in the process of complying, so we will advise and warn them to immediately follow," he added.
Based on the general guidelines stated on the Memorandum Circular issued by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol on October 24, the SRPs set for local rice range from P39 to P47 per kilogram depending on classification.
Regular milled rice costs P39 per kilogram while well-milled and premium rice cost P44 to P47 per kilogram, respectively.
For imported rice, on the other hand, the SRP for well-milled is P39 per kilogram. While, those for premium grade one and two are P43 and P40 per kilogram, respectively.
Under the guidelines, special rice such as glutinous, aromatic, pigmented, japonica, and micronutrient-dense rice are not covered by the SRPs.
Aside from the SRPs, the agency also set prescribed standard specifications on the labeling of rice boxes and price tags.
The classification of rice should only be regular milled, well-milled, premium grade, and special rice.
The classification in rice boxes shall be printed in black bold letters with white background.
In terms of price tags, the circular stated that the prescribed information shall be the price per kilogram.
It added that the NFA in coordination with other regulatory agencies shall monitor the implementation and compliance of the guidelines.
For Negros Occidental, Canoy said they are already coordinating with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) about it.
Canoy said: "We are serious on implementing the measure but this means that due process will be followed."
The guidelines further stated that any violation shall be subjected to the penal provisions of existing laws, rules and regulations including but not limited to the Price Act and the Revised Rules and Regulations of the NFA on grains business.
Piñol, also the chairman of the NFA Council, earlier said the penalty for violators includes imprisonment for four months up to four years depending on the offense.
This is on top of cancelation of license for engaging in grains trading and penalty of P2, 000 to P1 million for overpricing, he added.
"This measure will really help promote the right and welfare of Negrense consumers," Canoy said, adding that "this upholds transparent and fair marketing practices and enable consumers to exercise their power of choice."
DTI warns compliance
Meanwhile, the DTI warned the businessmen of complying with the SRP of goods and basic commodities in the market.
Rebecca Rascon, DTI-Western Visayas director, said that composite team composed of concerned government agencies like the Department of Agriculture (DA), the NFA, the police and the DTI are closely monitoring the companies on its implementation.
She also clarified that since rice is an agricultural product, the regulations belong to NFA which is under DA.
"The rule is since there is a lead agency, DA in case of rice, any violation pertaining to the SRP shall be handled by the DA including the issuance of the order of violation down to the enforcement and penalties," Rascon said.
She said DTI's function is for manufactured products, however, the National Price Coordinating Council is chaired by DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez, so DTI is still involved in all goods and commodities.
She also advised the local price coordinating council to be activated to also conduct the price monitoring and have its report compared to that of the DTI. (with reports from Teresa D. Ellera)