As chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, I thank and support the decision of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the Department of Agriculture to impose minimum prices on dry palay and wet palay at the buying stations (P19-P23 per kilo for dry and P16-P19 per kilo for wet).
Now, we have temporary price controls at two points in the rice supply value chain to protect both farmers and consumers from price gougers and hoarders.
These price controls should serve as notice to the rice traders, millers, and distributors that they should cooperate with the government to bring down food prices. In other words, they should moderate their need to squeeze high profits from buying and selling rice. They should consider the greater public good.
Having price controls at two points in the rice supply value chain now can also mean there can be additional points in the coming weeks if the private rice enterprises refuse to cooperate. The temporary rice pricing policy could be further calibrated to include price caps on drying, milling, sacking, and distribution — which are the other parts of the value chain.
Now, while the price controls are in effect, I believe it would be best if the National Food Authority (NFA) would assert its powers to maintain our country’s buffer stock. Republic Act 11203 gives the NFA the power to “maintain sufficient rice buffer stock to be sourced solely from local rice farmers.”
I believe the buffer stock should be enough for two to four weeks and also enough to meet sudden needs such as the aftermath of typhoons and safety stocks for the effects of the coming El Niño months until the first half of next year.
NFA should practice strategic buying at locations where NFA can be an effective counterpoint to private rice traders and millers. NFA does not need to be everywhere. NFA just has to be at the right specific places at the right time during the harvest season from September to December.
With Christmas coming just weeks from now, it is imperative that rice prices moderate enough to bring inflation much closer to the economic managers’ target range of two to four percent.