By Genalyn Kabiling
The government has vowed to boost the supply of rice in Zamboanga City amid concerns about the shortage of the commodity.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the additional rice stocks from National Food Authority (NFA) would hopefully address the rice shortfall and reduce the prices in the market.
“NFA has announced that there will be Bigasang Bayan to be opened in Zamboanga and that of course intended to increase the supply of rice in Zamboanga and to lower the price of rice there,” Roque said during a Palace press briefing.
“So the solution really is to bring in more supply into Zamboanga City,” he added.
He noted that the local government of Zamboanga has already declared a state of calamity due to the rice situation, that allows them to impose “price controls.”
The calamity declaration in Zamboanga has been issued amid reports of rice shortage arising from soaring price increases of the commodity.
Commercial rice prices have reportedly increased as much as P70 per kilo in Zamboanga City. The average retail price of regular milled rice in the country is reportedly between P42 to P45.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier said they intend to open the “Bigasan ng Masa” in Zamboanga City this Saturday. The government store will sell regular and well-milled rice produced by local farmers “at prices much lower” than those sold in the markets.
Piñol explained that the prices of commercial rice in Zamboanga City and nearby Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi have soared following the closure of rice smuggling operations in the southern border with Malaysia.
“For years, these areas have relied on smuggled rice, abandoning the local rice production programs,” Piñol said in a Facebook post.
“Smuggled rice was openly sold in the market and even legitimate rice traders closed shop because they could not compete with the smugglers,” he added.