In Ecija, grains fit for pets snapped by buyers amid price hike

Rice dealer

Manila, Philippines – Cheap rice, often bought to feed pets like dogs, has been sufficient for poor families who cannot cope with spiraling rice prices in the market, due to the absence of National Food Authority (NFA) supply.

Broken grains

NFA distributes rice to stabilize prices but the agency is waiting for imported rice to arrive in June before it could release stocks to the market.

“Sorter” rice, so called because it is made up of whole, broken and chalky grains gathered at the end of the milling process, is sold for P27 a kilogram in most stalls here. Rice millers use a color sorter machine that removes milled grains with defects and impurities.

These cheaper stocks occasionally need more cleaning because these come with “sweepings, seeds of weeds, some small stones and ‘kala’ (yellowish grains),” according to a local retailer, who asked not to be named.

“Sorter rice used to be bought only by rich buyers, but is now fed to their pet animals like dogs. But it is fit for human consumption,” the retailer said.

Prices soar

Those who buy NFA rice have become sorter rice consumers since January when the agency stopped distributing their allocations to retailers.

Retailers get 15 bags (each weighing 50 kg) of sorter rice each week. Bought at P25 a kg, retailers sell each bag with a P2 markup.

Since the third week of February, wholesale prices of rice have increased from P36.90 to P40.33 a kg, while retail prices for well-milled rice have climbed from P39.31 to P43.10 a kg, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. It said prices of commercial rice increased by at least 20 percent since the first week of January.

NFA allocations here were cut from 20 bags a week to five bags in December 2017 and were suspended in the early weeks of January.

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