Quote for the Week..

"Why are the country’s political leaders quick to act on amending the Constitution to change nationalistic provisions for the benefit of foreigners or to extend their terms of office but are allergic to amending the Constitution to address the people’s aspirations for self-determination?" - Marvic Leonen,Dean of the UP College of Law, in a keynote address delivered at the 1st International Solidarity Conference on Mindanao; March 16-18, 2009 in Davao City, Philippines.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Soaring rice prices grip Mindanao folk

UPDATE) Mindanao, the country's food basket, is going hungry, as the price of rice soared to levels beyond the reach of many residents.

Polished rice is retailed at P45 to P51 a kilo, more than twice the government-subsidized rice that is not available to most consumers.

"It will be difficult for us to budget our daily expenses, especially now that my children will be going to school," said Cynthia Tuario, a resident of Kidapawan City in North Cotabato province.

The "milagrosa" variety, for instance, is sold at P47 a kilo in Kidapawan. In the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato and Zamboanga, the price of rice ranges from P40 to P50.

In Davao Oriental province, residents literally saw price tags change daily -- P38 on Thursday to P40 on Friday and P42 on Saturday.

The price of rice continues to go up despite assurances from the government that the country has enough supply.

Rice prices in the world market hit record highs in April because of tight global supplies and partly due to the huge orders from the Philippines, the world's biggest rice importer.


Tricycle driver Reynaldo Pandi, 40, of Tagum City voiced worries on how to budget his P120 daily "take-home earnings" as he can only manage to buy two kilos of "good quality rice" for his wife and their four children, two of whom will go to school next week.

"Lisod na kaayo (Life has become difficult these days). You have to budget everything -- pedicab rent to pay, rising price of gasoline amid dwindling number of passengers. Then this rising price of rice. Asa na man atong gobyerno (Where is now our government)?" Pandi asked.

Alfonso Doguil, a resident of San Isidro town in Davao Oriental, said: "We should start eating camote (sweet potatoes)."

On Friday, the government said it would give the poor subsidies worth up to P93.6 billion to help them with the rising prices.

Some 23.5 million Filipinos, or 26 percent of the population who earn P67 or less a day, have been hardest hit by high rice and fuel prices.

More sink into poverty

Some 2.3 million more Filipinos fall into poverty for every 10-percent increase in food prices, according to a new study by an Asian Development Bank economist.

If the price of rice alone rises by the same rate, expect 660,000 people to swell the ranks of the poor, ADB economist Hyun Son earlier said.

Food prices rose by an average of 12 percent in April compared with only 8.4 percent in March, said the National Statistics Office.

The price of rice, which accounts for nearly a third of the food expenditures of the poorest households, jumped in April by nearly 25 percent from its level a year ago.

Even a known rice-producing town in Davao del Norte felt the crunch of rising price of rice.

In Kapalong town where expanding banana plantations have been eating up vast rice lands, prices of commercial rice range from P41 to P50 a kilo, with the "cheapest variety" of "poor quality."

NFA outlets

The town's three National Food Authority (NFA) outlets are not enough so consumers who cannot be accommodated go to commercial rice retailers, Mayor Edgardo Timbol said.

"Retailers here buy their stocks from traders at an already high price, forcing them to sell the product to the consumers at much higher cost," Timbol said.

He said he had met with NFA officials in the province on Friday to ask for additional outlets to be put up in some of the villages.

"The NFA promised to allocate new outlets in eight of our barangays when we have completed the requirements. That could help lower rice prices here as the demand for commercial rice will go down, with the public already having an alternative," Timbol said.

In Tagum City in Davao del Norte, "organic rice" sells for P46 a kilo at market stalls while the cheapest varieties range from P40-P41. Other varieties also hit the P50-mark, unimaginable two years ago.

In Digos City in Davao del Sur, polished rice is sold at P51 per kilogram.

Corn grits

A lot of people have opted to buy corn grits. First class (white) corn grits are sold at P31.50 a kilo, and yellow corn grits at P18.50.

Joseph Omero, a rice trader in Digos' public market, said he could do nothing about rising prices of rice since "big rice traders sold their rice at a higher price."

The same is happening in the Socsksargen (South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, General Santos City) area.

Girl collapses at queue

The high price of the staple is forcing people to queue to buy NFA rice.

In Alabel town in Sarangani province, 13-year-old girl Precy (not her real name) on Friday collapsed while she lined up to buy cheap NFA rice.

She and her uncle Ricardo Tumbocon failed to buy NFA rice for dinner that day as she was taken to the nearest hospital.

Tumbocon, who brought his niece to the hospital, said, "Ugma na lang mi mopilag balik (We will take the line again tomorrow)."

In General Santos City, NFA rice buyers start lining up at 10 p.m. at the city public market.

Rosemarie Pascua-Paz, a rice trader at the public market, said she had no choice but to increase the price of commercial rice. "If we will not increase, we will have no income," she said.

But the NFA office in Central Mindanao said that by the second week of the month, the subsidized rice sold at P18.50 a kilo would no longer be available in the public market.

Thai rice at P25/kilo

Art Aller, NFA regional operations chief, said the cheaper NFA rice would be replaced by Thailand rice.

Thai rice is priced a bit higher at P25 per kilo.

Aller said the P18.50-NFA rice would be pulled out from the public market and would be sold at the "Tindahan Natin" in different barangays.

The NFA in Central Mindanao expects 216,000 metric tons of Thai rice to arrive in the early part of June.

Beef and pork, too

Prices of meat are also soaring. Beef and pork prices have already doubled this year and with rising oil prices, increasing freight costs and a weakening peso, are set to rise again, according to an importers' group.

Meat prices are expected to increase by August or September.

Jun Lim, vice president of the Cold Chain Association of the Philippines, said 90 percent of the country's beef supply was imported, mostly from Brazil.

The price of imported beef in January was $2.65 a kilo, and in May it was $4.50 a kilo. Pork was $1.90 a kilo in January and $2.50 in May.

"The effect is not yet felt immediately because a lot of what is being sold in the market are meats that came in two to three months ago and were in storage," he said. "But once those stocks are depleted, price increases will hit the consumers." (Reports from Frinston Lim, Julie S. Alipala, Aquiles Zonio, Rolando Pinsoy, Ma. Cecilia Rodriguez, Eldie Aguirre and Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao; and Agence France-Presse)

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