Farmers group warns of possible rice shortage in Q3


While the country’s rice supply may be sufficient until June, a deficiency in the staple food could happen during the lean harvest months from July to September 2023, a farmers’ group revealed on Monday.

Federation of Free Farmers (FFF) national manager Raul Montemayor warned of a repeat of the rice crisis in 2018, saying the scenario being experienced at present on the spike of rice prices and possible shortage has similarities.

“If you recall, in 2018, regular rice reached P45 [per kilo] because of the rice crisis. The situation in 2018 is equivalent to the situation now and at that time, the NFA [National Food Authority] still had the authority to import, unlike now,” Montemayor pointed out.

He said Republic Act (RA) 11203 on the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL) removed the power of the NFA to import.

During the rice crisis in 2018, Filipinos lined up for NFA rice, which was rationed out at a cheaper price.

Moreover, Montemayor said the government should not allow a repeat of the crisis experienced during the administration of then president Rodrigo R. Duterte.

“I hope [queuing for rice] would not happen and the government should look for a solution,” he added.

Montemayor also warned that hoarders will again take advantage of the situation if another rice crisis unfolds.

“Every time we have a crisis, unscrupulous traders take advantage, just like what happened to the onions. The government needs to act as we have a problem on rice,” he said.

Retail price of onions in December 2022 reached as high as P720 per kilo amid a shortage in supply.

Under the RTL, the government eliminated the quantitative restriction on the importation of the staple grain, Montemayor said.

He said the upward trend in retail prices was due to the increase in the cost of imported rice.

“The [demand for] imported rice is increasing. That’s the reason there is a spike in the retail prices as unlike before when cheap imported rice entered the country, traders were also forced to bring down the retail prices of local rice, but since the imported rice is going up, the local price is also increasing,” Montemayor said.

He added the retail price of imported and local rice had already increased by P6 per kilo.

Based on monitoring of the Department of Agriculture, the retail price of local regular milled rice reached P40 per kilo; local well-milled rice at P46 per kilo; local premium rice, P49 per kilo; and local special rice, P60 per kilo.

On the other hand, imported regular milled rice was pegged at P44 per kilo; imported well-milled rice, P46 per kilo; imported premium rice, P52 per kilo; and imported special rice, P58 per kilo.

“Many countries are also worried about the possible impact of El Niño. The rice production of many countries was also affected by the high cost of fertilizer so the demand for imported rice increased, causing a spike in prices. If the Philippines joins the importation, it will further increase the prices of imported rice,” Montemayor explained.

He also warned that if the price of rice in the international market continues to go up, private traders would be discouraged to import.

“Worst case scenario, the private sector would not import because of high prices,” Montemayor said.

If traders stop importation, even the plan of the NFA to import 330,000 metric tons of rice will not be enough to ensure supply, he said.

“Up to June, we will not have a problem as we still have carry-over stocks from 2022, plus the harvest for the dry season. The problem actually will be in July, August, September, during the lean months where palay production is low,” he said.

Image credits: Bloomberg