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Retailers can import up to 350,000 tons of rice

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THE National Food Authority (NFA) on Monday approved the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) proposal to allow major retailers to directly import up to 350,000 tons of rice.

“In principle, we have approved the DTI proposal that they be allowed to partner with a private trader for their Suki Store program and for their private supermarket rice distribution program. We approved in principle an allocation of 350,000 metric tons for DTI under this program on the condition that there will be a deed of undertaking,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters on Monday.

The approved volume is expected to arrive by November and will last 20 days. It will be allocated to retailers who can commit to help in lowering current rice prices.

Mr. Pinol said this is in addition to the 750,000 tons the NFA will import before the end of the year.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said three retailers, including Puregold Price Club, Inc. and Robinsons Retail Holdings, Inc., have expressed interest in importing rice to sell it cheaply in their outlets.

“So far we have three major groups that indicated interest and then one group of supermarkets also, the Philippine Consumer Centric-Traders Association… At least yung interesado (At least those who are interested are) Puregold and Robinson,” Mr. Lopez said in a recording the DTI sent to reporters on Monday.

The Trade chief clarified that the 350,000 MT volume will be open to other interested parties, who can commit to the P38 per kilo price.

“This is the balanced price that we have to make available,” Mr. Lopez said, noting the set price already factors in the welfare of rice farmers whose palay yields from their ongoing harvest may face competition with the incoming influx of rice imports.

Both Puregold and Robinsons were sought for comment but has not replied as of press time.

Meanwhile, the DTI is also looking at measures to lower the price of chicken and possibly, pork.

Mr. Lopez said government will set a “moving price-ceiling” on chicken, a move intended to limit the profit of sellers at the wet market to P50 per kilo.

“On chicken, we agreed, although hindi pa kami nagpipirma. But we will issue a formal MoA (memorandum of agreement) with the DA (Department of Agriculture) to impose a moving price ceiling. In other words, it will move with farmgate prices…[A]t least we can control the trading part, the dressing, the logistics and the trading in between the farmgate and retailing. So that the max cap is P50,” he said.

The set margin price for chicken will be updated every three days. Violators will first be issued a show cause order after which fines will be imposed if chicken sellers fail to readjust their prices in accordance with P50 margin cap.

Mr. Lopez said the same measure may also be used to lower pork prices. — Janina C. Lim and Reicelene Joy N. Ignacio