A National Food Authority (NFA) official admitted on Monday they have no capacity to impact the prices of commercial rice varieties in public markets in the province due to the very limited supply they have in their warehouses.
NFA Assistant Provincial Manager Cesar Gonda said that the remaining stocks in all their warehouses in Palawan as of Monday are 11,000 bags.
The agency, which functions as a government safeguard to prevent a steep hike in rice prices by making lower-priced grains available, admitted they have no more control of the market.
“Mataas ang presyo sa labas. Hindi natin sila kayang pigilan kasi free-enterprise naman tayo,” he said.
He explained that their supply is limited because their procurement of palay in 2017 was only 7,000 sacks from their buying stations in Narra and Rizal towns in southern Palawan. Gonda added that this is because private traders offer to buy the farmers’ rice produce at higher prices compared to the NFA.
He said ice traders are offering P20-P22 per kilo of dried palay, while the NFA buys at P17.00 per kilo.
“Hindi na sila lugi sa NFA na presyo. Pero syempre gusto rin nila ng mas malaking kita,” Gonda elaborated.
Bezalie Sotto, information officer of the NFA–Palawan said that since farmers do not want to sell their palay (unmilled rice) to them, they just continue to appeal to industry players to make affordable commercial rice available to the public.
“Patuloy ang ahensya na nakikipag-ugnayan sa mga retailers, millers, traders na magkaroon ng social responsibility upang masiguro ang kasapatan ng supply sa pamilihang bayan at sa mababa at abot kayang halaga ng bigas,” she said.
She explained that they are also conducting “Ugnayan” to intensify their link with rice farmers through forums, dialogues, and information drives.
Gonda said that if retailers will only rely on them, there will not be enough because Palawan consumes 8,000 bags per day. “Kung aasa lahat ng retailers sa supply ng NFA, mauubos iyon agad in one to two days”.
Gonda assured that despite reports of alleged rice shortage, the province will be able to cope since commercial rice products are available in the warehouses of private rice traders.
“Sapat ang ating supply sa Palawan, sa household stocks at sa mga commercial rice sa palengke ay marami pa rin. Ito ay mas mahal nga lang. Pero ang mahalaga ay meron kaysa naman wala kang mabili kahit mahal,” he said.
Gonda added that aside from limited supply, consumers can expect an increase in the prices of rice in public markets because of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.
The tax reform law, he stated, affects the prices of fuel.
“Slight lang, normal lang ito kasi wala namang abrupt na pag-galaw” he said.
He said that a P1 to P2 peso increase in the price of commercial rice has been observed in the market.
The 11,000 bags they have, he said, are only meant as buffer stocks in case of calamities in Palawan.
Since the supply is unsteady, Gonda added there will be no rice delivery to NFA outlets in the province except in the Calamianes Group.
Outlets in these island towns are continuously being supplied as they are considered “deficit areas,” where even commercial rice supplies are limited.
“Kulang kasi ang production sa mga island municipalities na ito. Ang commercial rice nila ay galing pa sa Manila at Mindoro. Kaya hangga’t maaari ay sinusuplayan natin,” he said.