By Rey Anthony Chiu
Lowering the price of commercial rice is beyond the small stall owners who source out their stocks at already high prices.
This also sums up the reactions from local market stall owners in Tagbilaran City’s main market who still continue to sell commercial panda and pearl rice at P38-39 and P40-43, while their bukid rice still sells between P37-38.
This is despite the fact that commercial rice in Metro Manila has gone down to P35 due to the continued government intervention such as flooding the markets with cheap rice and going tough on hoarders and scrupulous businessmen.
“We can not go lower because we will already lose,” a stall owner who refused to be identified shared.
“As much as we wish we could do it to compete with the P25 NFA rice, we also have to consider getting our money back,” she stressed in Cebuano. Her stall sits at close proximity to a Tindahan Natin outlet that sells the NFA rice at P25 a kilo twice a week.
“We buy our stocks at already a high price and so we can not just absorb the losses because we also wish to earn a living here,” she explained.
Admitting that she has noted the price of commercial rice go down from P40 two weeks ago to P38 now, she added that is the lowest they can offer to the consumers.
That time, ‘bukid” rice sells at P1900 per bag, now it has gone down to P1700, she admits, referring to the traders price two weeks ago.
She also speculated that the price may have been brought down by the cheaper NFA rice which at times can be better than the broken bukid rice.
“If we buy commercial rice at P1,800 per sack, we could not sell it in retail at P38, we would lose by then.”
If there is a need to lower the prices in the markets, then the traders have to sell their stocks at a much lower price.
She however did not name her trader source, but hinted it has cornered the biggest rice market in Bohol.
Asked what could be the effect if the National Food Authority makes the weekly ration to its outlets at 100 bags, she said she would have to reduce her commercial rice stocks.
She shared that before the rice crunch, her stall of 4 meters by 8 meters could sell between 4-5 sacks a day. Mow, selling a sack a day is already a feat.
Over this, consumers here have also wished the NFA has a better and more efficient distribution system.
This as several people have pointed out that some of those people queuing for the cheap rice are better off.
A freelance government consultant also stressed that the government-subsidized rice must reach its intended beneficiaries, the dirt poor.
Dr. Fermin Adriano, a Doctor of Philosophy on Political Economy from the City University of London, said the government is losing about P15 for every kilo of rice its subsidizes.
“The good news is that the government has the funds, for now, from the implementation of the expanded value added tax (EVAT) law.”
He said “it should really go to the dirt poor” to which it was intended for---the poor and not the rich, who buy the subsidized rice for their helpers while they eat the pricey variety of rice.”
This must be done because the government cannot “go against the market forces” forever.
He then suggested that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the local government units (LGUs) must work together to improve on the delivery of NFA rice.
“We have to make them accountable and the people must be informed that this much NFA rice has been delivered for their community,” he said.
He stressed though that the NFA will never earn from the subsidized rice as it is a “social welfare function and that the government exists to help the poor.”
“No way NFA will earn back the P250 billion it uses to subsidize rice,” he said.