OFFICIALS of the Department of Agriculture and the National Food Authority were asked to explain the disparities between the promised stabilization and the current market prices of rice.
In the hearing of the House Committee on Agriculture, lawmakers expressed disappointment over the failure of the two agencies to lower or stabilize the prices of rice at least this holiday season.
House Deputy Majority Leader ACT-CIS party-list Representative Erwin Tulfo expressed concerns on the unfulfilled commitment made by DA officials around July, August, and September regarding the anticipated price reduction of rice.
It can be recalled that the two agencies assured consumers that prices of rice will stabilize because of the harvest season.
The hearing was initiated following the recent surprise visit of Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Tulfo at Farmers Market in Cubao, Quezon City, to assess the prices of essential commodities, particularly food items, and ensure compliance with suggested retail prices.
Tulfo noted that despite the promised stabilization, rice prices have remained between P52 and P60 per kilogram.
“Whatever happened to that promise na bababa [ang presyo ng bigas], because people were waiting? Bakit hindi po bumaba?” Tulfo asked.
NFA chief Roderico Bioco cited key factors contributing to the surge in rice prices, including a shortfall in production between 2021 and 2022, low fertilizer uptake among farmers affecting yields, and international factors such as Indonesia’s announcement to buy two million tons of rice.
He mentioned that the combination of these factors, along with import parity being higher than the landed cost, has resulted in higher rice prices in the local market.
Romualdez said Congress wanted to make sure that traders do not take advantage of the holiday season to jack up prices of basic commodities.
“The Christmas season is meant to be a time of giving and compassion, and we want to make sure that prices of goods are affordable to a great majority of our people,” he added.
At the hearing, committee chair Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga said they expect that the information presented by the DA and its attached agencies will guide the committee in taking necessary steps to address concerns about the escalating prices of agricultural commodities, particularly rice and chicken eggs, and prevent further complications.