Aquino OKs import of extra 200,000 tons of Vietnam rice
The Philippines will import an additional 200,000 tons of rice from Vietnam this year to boost local supply and stabilize retail prices that have risen to record levels, fanning inflation pressures.
Francis Pangilinan, newly appointed presidential assistant for food security and agricultural modernization, announced the decision late Thursday after a meeting with President Aquino and other agriculture officials.
Pangilinan said the additional supply plus the 20,000 tons of smuggled rice seized by the Bureau of Customs will boost the stocks of the National Food Authority (NFA).
The Philippines, one of the world’s biggest rice importers, has already bought a total of 1.3 million tons from Vietnam – the world’s No. 2 exporter of the grain after India, in deals over the last seven months.
Loading for China, the Philippines and Malaysia helped keep rice prices stable in Vietnam in the past week despite thin buying demand.
It is unclear if the planned extra rice purchase from Vietnam will be similar to the government-to-government deal the NFA sought late last year, or if bids would still be sought from rice traders there.
Local retail prices of the national staple have risen by more than 20 percent from last year amid government efforts to curb rampant smuggling of the grain into the country.
The NFA has been releasing more than the usual volume of rice into local markets in recent weeks in an effort to prevent prices of varieties sold by private traders from rising further.
This year’s rice purchases are the biggest since 2010 when it bought a record 2.45 million tons.
It bought 500,000 tons from Vietnam in a deal sealed in November after a strong typhoon damaged crops and almost depleted NFA’s inventory.
The decision to import more rice came after Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala announced on Monday that the country would keep quantitative restrictions on its purchases of the grain in place until 2017 after winning international support to maintain import curbs.
But the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) wants the Aquino government to impose a price control on rice instead of importing the grain and to reverse its rice trade liberalization policy.
Rafael Mariano, KMP chair, said “releasing imported rice in the local market cannot pull down rice prices. Without government control on prices of commercial rice, the release of imported rice will further boost rice prices up.”
He said even the reported plan of the NFA to release 400,000 metric tons of imported rice in the market will have “little effect” on rice prices.
NOT A SOLUTION
The farmer’s group also criticized Pangilinan for blaming the retailers for the spike in rice prices instead of zeroing in on rice cartels when he inspected rice stalls at the Commonwealth Market in Quezon City.
“Kiko’s (Pangilinan) palengke tour coupled with the blame-the-retailer line is tantamount to concealing the real cause and culprits of the rice price hikes. It is definitely not the solution to the skyrocketing prices of rice,” Mariano said.
“Can’t we see something more daring and decisive actions from the Aquino’s food czar? Why target the retailers, the small fries? Sorry, we’re not impressed,” Mariano said.
The KMP who is leading nationwide farmers’ protests this week until June 30 (the expiration of what it described as the bogus Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) said “Aquino’s constant failure to control the prices of rice is another strong ground for the people to reject the landlord Aquino regime who is also the biggest protector of rice cartels.”
GO TO MARKET
Hurt by the President’s declaration that majority of the population do not feel the upward movement in the prices of commodities, GABRIELA Spokesperson Jinky Panganiban dared President Aquino to “go to the market… and let’s see how far he could go” with P42 left from the take home pay of a minimum wage earner after paying the water and electric bills.
Members of GABRIELA Metro Manila held a protest at the Altura Market in Sta. Mesa, Manila yesterday amid soaring prices of rice, garlic and other basic commodities.
“He dares to say that we ordinary Filipinos do not feel the brunt of the price surge when he has not been amongst us or talked to us. Surely this haciendero who through all his life have lived a-plenty doesn’t know how hard it is to live on a meager wage. He feigns sympathy to the plight of ordinary citizens while he callously spends millions of our taxes on junkets abroad, ” Panganiban added.
“We need concrete actions now not just PR Investigations. Control the prices or implement a moratorium on increase if he must. If he does not do so then he would definitely earn the rage of women, mothers and wives.” Panganiban urged. (With a report from Ellaine Dorothy S. Cal)