Customers rush for NFA rice as sale nears end

Michael Joe Delizo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 06 2019 04:10 PM | Updated as of Apr 06 2019 04:56 PM

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MANILA — The day after the signing of the Rice Tariffication law, consumers were quick to rush to markets to get their stock of the lowest price milled rice.

The new law will end the sale of the staple by the National Food Authority (NFA) and liberalize the importation, exportation, and trading of rice to procure cheaper rice in the market. 

On Saturday morning, dozens of consumers at Commonwealth Market in Quezon City endured long queues for NFA rice being sold at P27 per kilo, the cheapest in the market. 

Some brought their children and other family members to get as many kilos of NFA rice as possible as the outlets were only selling 3 kilos for each customer due to limited stock.

“Sampu po kami sa isang bahay. Ang nakalaan kasi sa aming bigas, 25 kilos per week eh,” said customer Ging Erlano.

(We are 10 in the house. We are alloted 25 kilos per week.)

“Walang magawa, eh ’di magtiyaga,” said Pearly Casis.

(We cannot do anything but to persevere.)

A long-time NFA rice consumer, Casis pleaded: “Presidente, sana naman huwag mawala ang NFA kung puwede lang. Maawa po kayo, tulungan niyo kaming mahihirap.”

(President, please do not allow NFA to be gone if possible. Have mercy, help the poor like us.)

Some consumers said they are now planning their budget for rice for the next few months when the P27-rice is no longer available. 

Prices of commercial rice at the Commonwealth Market have been down by at least P4 to P5 for a month now. From P38, the lowest price of commercial rice is now P34.

“Maghahanap na lang kami ng medyo mababa para makabawas din sa budget. ’Yung pambili namin ng mahal, pambili na lang ng ulam kasi sa hirap ng buhay,” said another customer Ghe Ghe Sombreto. 

(We will find something cheap to save our budget. We will just save what we can so we can buy ingredients for the dish that will go with it because life is hard.)

Cathy Estabillo, spokesperson of rice watchdog Bantay Bigas, believes that the reduction of rice prices due to the implementation of the rice tax law would not last long because prices would no longer be regulated. 

The law had repealed the NFA’s regulatory powers.

She said: “Sa pagsusuri namin sa matagal nang karanasan ng Pilipinas sa pagi-import, hindi talaga bumaba ’yung presyo ng bigas at higit lalong hindi na ito bababa dahil mawawala na 'yung regulatory power ng NFA at inaasahan na talaga ’yung pricing ng bigas sa traders at higit lalong titingkad ang cartel.”

(In our analysis based on the long experience of the Philippines in importation the price of rice does not really go down and it will never decline now because of the revocation of the regulatory power of the NFA, and we expect that the rice pricing of traders and the cartel will thrive.)

The NFA has a total 515,215 metric tons in remaining stock of imported rice that will be distributed to markets only until August. After then, NFA rice will only serve as buffer stock that could only be released during calamities and emergencies.