MANILA - Government attributes the increase in rice prices to a combination of tighter supply, high buying price of palay, and some traders taking advantage of the situation, Presidential Assistant on Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan said Thursday.
Pangilinan said the government will import an additional 200 metric tons of rice from Vietnam to replenish the buffer stock of the National Food Authority (NFA).
This was one of the outcomes of President Benigno Aquino's meeting with Pangilinan and other agriculture officials concerning, among others, the rising prices of rice and other products.
In addition, Pangilinan said the NFA, the Finance Department and the Bureau of Customs will work on NFA's acquisition of some 20,000 metric tons of smuggled rice that have been seized.
The NFA will also deputize the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) to monitor and inspect rice warehouses for possible hoarding or diversion of NFA rice.
The government will also keep the prices of NFA rice at P32 and P27 per kilo of up to September.
Pangilinan, the NFA, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) will coordinate the investigation and prosecution of possible hoarders of rice stocks.
Separately, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said that during the meeting held Thursday afternoon, the President ordered the DOJ, through the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), to look into reported hoarding, profiteering, and cartel-like activities of some rice distributors.
The PNP will assist in these efforts, Coloma said. The directive came after it was determined that there is sufficient supply of rice, garlic, and other basic food items.
Aquino also directed Proceso Alcala, Pangilinan, and Trade and Industry Secretary Gregory Domingo to intensify monitoring efforts to ensure continuous supply and stable prices of these commodities.
The Department of Agriculture, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization will state the specific measures and actions to execute the President's directives.
Aquino told reporters in Japan earlier this week that government has yet to determine the cause of the increases.