Manila, Philippines – For years, Cresencia Castaño had been buying rice from the National Food Authority (NFA) to save money.
Last week, however, the 60-year-old resident of Barangay Cogon was forced to purchase “bukid rice,” or rice bought directly from farmers, which costs P12 more than the price of a kilo of NFA rice.
The NFA recently stopped supplying rice to accredited retailers in the Visayas and other parts of the country due to a thin inventory.
The current supply of NFA rice is now reserved for the needs of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in Central Visayas, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and local governments affected by emergencies.
In Eastern Visayas, the NFA stock of 64,000 bags was good for only two days as of Tuesday.
The NFA is now awaiting approval of the interagency council’s request to import the staple either from Vietnam or Thailand.
Appeal to traders
In the meantime, NFA officials have appealed to retailers not to take advantage of its low rice stocks so as not to burden consumers.
The appeal has fallen on deaf ears. Since the NFA stopped supplying rice to retailers, the prices of commercial rice have gone up.
In Iloilo City, a 50-kilo bag of well-milled rice is sold at P1,850, up from P1,750, according to a rice supplier.
In markets and stores, a kilo of rice costs about P42 to P43 a kilo.
“Some of our customers complained of the higher prices but we cannot do anything because we bought our supplies at a higher price,” said Evangeline Herrera, 58, a rice retailer at Tacloban City Public Market.
From P1,950, a bag of commercial rice now costs P2,050, Herrera said.
Adelyn Ruiz, a rice vendor at Carbon Public Market in Cebu City, said the prices of commercial rice she was selling increased by P2 a kilo.
Ganador, the most expensive rice Ruiz sells, costs P52 a kilo. The cheapest commercial rice, Lucky Star or C-4, is sold at P40 a kilo.
In contrast, NFA rice can be bought for P27 a kilo for 25-percent broken grains, and P32 a kilo for 15-percent broken grains—still cheaper than commercial rice, which costs from P40 to P50 a kilo.
On Feb. 1, the NFA in Central Visayas stopped distributing rice to accredited retailers in the region due to low supply.
As of Jan. 31, only about 140,000 bags of NFA rice were available in Central Visayas.
As a result, the NFA also had to stop supplying rice to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology for jails in Bohol province since Feb. 5, according to NFA provincial manager Maria Fe Evasco.