IT is certainly reassuring to note that there’s no rice shortage in the Philippines, a rice-producing Southeast Asian nation of more than 100 million people, as claimed by some quarters.
And no less than Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol, a former newspaperman, was quick to blame rice cartels for allegedly “maneuvering” prices in the local market.
Denying reports that there’s an impending rice crisis in this manpower-exporting but poverty-stricken nation, Piñol said that our stocks are “enough for our consumption for the next 96 days.”
Records showed that the Philippines produced an estimated 19.4 million metric tons (MT) of palay last year, which is believed to be the biggest in history, according to the agriculture secretary.
The DA top honcho claimed that there’s still three million metric tons (MT) of National Food Authority rice, while NFA spokesman Rex Estopeda said that the rice buffer stock stands at one million MT.
In the view of Secretary Piñol, what is lamentable is the “anomalous food chain,” where traders or businessmen, instead of farmers, dictate prices of rice sold to them.
And worse, government offices and agencies, particularly the NFA, have no control over it, leaving the country’s impoverished farmers at the mercy of businessmen.
“Talagang nakakaawa ang kalagayan ng ating mga magsasaka na lumalabas na mga katulong lang sila ng mga negosyante na lalong yumayaman habang ang mga magsasaka ay lalong naghihirap,” said a rice farmer.
Of course, the government deserves the support of the suffering public as the Department of Agriculture and other concerned state agencies look deeper into the alleged rice shortage in the country.
At kung mapatunayang talagang walang rice shortage sa bansa, kailangang maparusahan ang mga taong nasa likod ng ’di makatuwirang pagtaas ng presyo ng bigas sa lokal na merkado.