THE national government remained confident that the slight elevation in world rice prices would not significantly affect domestic prices.
The All Rice Price Index of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations showed the commodity’s prices slowed to 3.2 percent in February but remained 17.6 percent above its average last year.
Agriculture Undersecretary for Policy, Planning, and Regulations Mercedita A. Sombilla told BusinessMirror on Wednesday that buffer stock volumes are still pegged at 350,000 metric tons as prices remain stable.
“Rice prices are stable (and) went up because of fuel/fertilizer cost. I don’t think there is an alarm. World prices are slightly elevated but Vietnam is harvesting soon,” Sombilla said.
In March, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed rice prices increased 2.6 percent from 2.2 percent in March 2022. From February, there was also an increase of 0.5 percent.
Sombilla said the DA does not have plans to manage the country’s imports during harvest. This is ensured by the provisions of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Trade Liberalization (RTL) law.
Based on the provisions of the same law, Sombilla reiterated that the National Food Authority (NFA) is not allowed to import directly from foreign sources.
National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Undersecretary for Planning and Policy Rosemarie G. Edillon also told BusinessMirror that the RTL helps keep local rice prices low.
While the PSA data showed an increase in local rice prices because world prices were elevated, the increase would have been higher if not for the RTL, Edillon said.
“What we do know is that world prices also increased because of higher input costs. For sure it would have been much higher if we did not have the RTL,” Edillon told this newspaper.
Last year, Albay Representative Jose Sarte Salceda said the RTL Law helped boost productivity in the country, leading to higher GDP growth.
He said the RTL, which increased rice supply in the country, led to a 0.3- percentage point increase in per capita GDP growth due to productivity gains.
Studies have shown that every 500-calorie increase in diets, per capita GDP increases 2 percentage points. This indicates, Salceda said, that more calories lead to higher GDP per capita.
This, Salceda said, highlighted the importance of food in the country’s growth. Economic development relied on education while education relied on good nutrition which is supported by a strong agriculture sector.