Rice-price hike to hurt the poor, make more people hungry

Published Apr 22, 2009

A network of food-security advocates on Monday warned that the P1-P2 increase in the price of rice will hurt the poor and increase the number of hungry people in the country.

Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS) lead convener Arze Glippo said the increase in the price of rice is in fact “inhuman” considering that Filipinos have not yet recovered from the impact of the 2009 rice crisis, the global recession and the successive calamities that hit the country.

Worse, she said, it is preposterous that the Department of Agriculture (DA), led by Agriculture Sec. Arthur Yap, justifies the price increase as “reasonable and logical.”

“He cannot even explain the reason for the price hike aside from saying it is a ‘price correction’ and that rice retailers may be experiencing ‘constricted supply deliveries’,” Glippo said.

Increases in the prices of basic commodities, especially the staple food, at a time when hunger and unemployment are soaring and incomes are stagnant, will hurt the poor and will surely increase the number of hungry people, she said.

“How could rice traders and retailers experience ‘constricted supply deliveries’ when Secretary Yap is assuring us of a stable rice supply?” she asked.

As early as Nov. 7 and Nov. 10 last year, the government imported 850,000 tons of rice for 2010 “to get good prices and secure stocks of early 2010 when the effects of the recent typhoons are expected to be felt.”

The group believes that the recent increase in the price of rice has nothing to do with supply and demand.

“This is plain and simple profiteering on the part of rice traders, abetted by the government’s long neglect of the rice industry and its skewed policy on food and agriculture,” she said.

Rice traders have long wanted to increase the price of rice, but were constrained when government was forced to impose price control on basic commodities after the devastating calamities in September and October last year. As soon as the price control was lifted in December and when majority of harvests was already in the hands of private traders, the government is announcing its plan to raise the retail price of rice.

Instead of justifying the rice-price hike, TFFS said the government should reimpose price control on rice and other basic commodities and to stabilize the rice market by selling more rice at subsidized rates.

More strategically, TFFS reiterated the need to strengthen the rice industry and lessen the country’s dependence on imports and its vulnerability to rice supply and price manipulation of private rice traders. This will necessitate pouring in support for rice farming, including farm inputs, credit and marketing, the TFSS said.