The Trade Department tapped top retailers SM Supermarket and Robinsons Supermarket to sell 350,000 metric tons of imported rice at P38 per kilogram to ease the tight supply of the staple in the local market.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the shipment would be on top of the 750,000 MT approved by the National Food Authority.
“We want to be able to provide consumers options while solving the problem of price and availability,” Lopez said Tuesday at the sidelines of the Inclusive Innovation Conference 2018 in Manila.
The proposed importation is a pilot undertaking in price setting that should fix the price of the imported staple at P38 per kilogram, Lopez said.
Lopez said the shipments were expected to arrive within three weeks or before end-October 2018, if the top retailers would agree to the importation.
The Trade Department said it would do away with the traditional permitting process and documentation for rice imports because of the exigency of the situation.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier issued Administrative Order No. 13, removing non-tariff barriers and streamlining administrative procedures on the importation of agricultural products. The president asked the National Food Authority, Sugar Regulatory Administration, in coordination with the Department of Trade and Industry to “undertake immediate measures to remove administrative constraints and other non-tariff barriers on the importation of agricultural products”.
Lopez said in case of succeeding importation, the Trade Department would tap other retailers who are also members of the Philippine Amalgamated Groceries and Supermarket Association Inc.
He said that as locally-produced commercial rice was priced higher by P6 to P8 a kilo, importing commercial rice at a fixed retail price would bring relief to the low-income income groups.
Lopez also proposed that the NFA focus on ensuring that the market had a stable supply of lower-priced rice, while the Trade Department would make sure to have ample supply of affordable commercial rice.
Lopez said despite the infusion of 2.3 million MT rice by the NFA into the market, the local supply remained tight.
The NFA increased its market participation to 20 percent of rice trade, from 14 percent to avoid rice queues.
Lopez said the Trade Department needed to act immediately and stop relying on the importation by the NFA.
“If we wait for the approved rice importation, when will that 750,000 importation arrive” If only NFA is within my jurisdiction, we won’t have problems in price and inventory,” he said.
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