By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC), an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said it can sell commercial rice at a subsidized retail price of P27-P32 per kilo once the National Food Authority (NFA) Council approves its proposal to import 150,000 metric tons of rice.
PITC President and CEO Dave M. Almarinez, said only at this price level that the government would be able to fight hoarders and reprieve Filipino consumers with affordable commercial rice, which have reached an average all-time high of P43 a kilo.
“PITC is throwing its full support behind the government’s effort, through DTI, to address the current artificial rice shortage,” said Almarinez.
Almarinez said they are still awaiting for the clearance from the National Food Authority. Once approved, the PITC rice to be imported from Thailand or Vietnam is expected to arrive in December this year. At present, imported rice is slapped with 35 percent tariff.
Almarinez said that removing administrative and non-tariff barriers would help reduce the cost of imported rice. They are also looking at logistics support and warehousing facilities from other government agencies to reduce the cost of rice.
This form of government subsidy will ensure prices of their imported rice cheaper.
Earlier, the Economic Cabinet Cluster submitted to President Duterte a draft executive order that will remove administrative and non-tariff barriers on the importation of food items to temper the surging inflation.
Almarinez further explained that the importation strategy is basically a forward sell meaning they select direct distributors and retailers as importers that can supply directly to consumers. PITC will then facilitate the importation.
“By flooding the market with imported rice, hoarders will be left no option but to release their supply in market and eventually stabilize the prices of rice,” he said adding that areas experiencing shortage and higher prices will be prioritized.
PITC has been playing a leading role in some critical economic programs of the DTI since 1973, as well as helped bring down the cost of medicines in the 1900s and 2000s.
Almarinez added that PITC is one with DTI and NFA in preventing rice hoarders from hurting the country’s economy and lives of millions of Filipinos.
Smuggling, hoarding and “man-made” price manipulation in the rice industry are the main reasons low-income families are now facing difficulties in buying affordable rice within their means. They had to endure long lines just to buy evenly-priced rice rationed and supplied by the NFA in designated areas.
Last week, NFA approved additional importation of rice to purchase 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice this year under an open tender scheme. This action will bring the agency’s rice imports for the year to 750,000 MT, including the half a million ton of imports approved earlier this year.