RICE is the staple food of the Filipinos and recently it had made noises in different news platforms on its price increases brought about by “artificial shortages,” as said by the Agriculture secretary Manny Piñol.

Following their mandate of making food affordable and sufficient to the Filipinos, Piñol launched last Valentine’s Day, February 14 the “Bigas ng Masa” program in Quezon City. The program is targeted to be replicated nationwide.

Piñol said after its launching at the DA central office, the launching in DA regional field offices will follow wherein rice outlets will be set up to sell rice supplied by local farmer-cooperatives.

“Our price of rice today is daylight robbery. Technically, rice should only be times two of the farm gate price of palay. We went out of our mandate which is solely on production and decided to set up this program to show that consumers have a choice and that our staple food should not be priced as high as they are today,” said Piñol in a statement released by DA.

The Bigas ng Bayan is sold for only P38 per kilo and is currently available on weekdays at the Agribusiness Center fronting DA office in Quezon City. These are sold in 25-kilo bags and are prohibited for re-selling.

Despite the rice price increases and rumors of rice insufficiency, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and DA had all confirmed that the Philippines is 96 percent rice sufficient.

“The remaining 4 percent will only amount to about 400,000 metric tons (MT). But the buffer stock of the country…coming into 2018 from 2017 is 2.7 million MT good for 88 days. If you add to that the projected harvested rice of about 3.1 million MT in the first quarter of this year, the total buffer stock at the end of the first quarter would be 5.8 million MT but the 2.8 million MT of that will be consumed during the first quarter. So what’s left going to the third quarter will be a buffer stock of about 3 million MT. That is good for 96 days. That is the highest volume of buffer stock in recent years,” Piñol said during a live video press conference of DA.

In a data by the Philippine Statistic Authority, the palay production of the country increased by 9.36 percent to 19.28 million metric tons (MT) in 2017 from only 17.63 million MT in 2016.