Marcos promise of P20/kilo rice ‘not possible’ for now – new DA chief

Cristina Chi – Philstar.com

November 6, 2023 | 2:27pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s campaign promise to reduce the price of rice to P20 per kilogram is “not possible” for now, newly appointed Department of Agriculture Secretary Francisco Laurel Jr. said on Monday.

In a press conference, Laurel said that the P20 per kilogram target — which a DA career official previously said was unlikely to be met within the next two years —  is “an aspiration” but may not happen soon due to the “15-year-high” increase in the price of rice in the world market.

“Today, it’s not possible. but with the directive of the president to modernize, irrigate … we are getting ready to do our best to try to make rice affordable,” Laurel said.

“It might take a little time,” Laurel added.

The DA chief said that Marcos’ marching orders are to increase the local production of agricultural goods in all sectors, especially rice. 

Asked if he was given specific instructions, Laurel said: “Modernize. Irrigate. Fertilize. Use right type of seeds. As soon as possible.”

Laurel added that it is difficult to project whether the price of rice will fall to P20 per kilogram within the current administration.

“It’s hard to say. The problem in the world is complicated. There’s climate change, El Nino and it will continue until the middle of next year. Anything can happen,” the agri chief said.

“We don’t know if there will be a war in other countries if there will be another problem with the shipments at the Suez Canal,” he added.

The DA chief said to lower the price of rice definitely, the sector must have its own silos to store rice grains and to increase its buffer stock.

Without elaborating, Laurel added: “We have to change some laws.” 

Over a year into Marcos’ term, the price of rice has remained far from the promised P20 target. Price monitoring data from the DA show that the price of well-milled local commercial rice ranges from P45 to P53 as of November 3.

RELATED: Progress on ‘P20/kilo’ rice promise missing from Marcos’ second SONA | Philstar.com

Increasing production 

In September, the president imposed a price ceiling on rice to temper the surging price of the household staple.

Despite this, the price of rice reached a 14-year-high in September when it climbed by 17.9% — higher than the 8.7% recorded in August and the highest since 2009, Philippine Statistics Authority data showed.

The DA chief said during the press conference that he believes Filipinos can “produce more” agricultural goods, but he still needs to study the data to determine how to addres the issue of overimportation.

“I’m not pro-importation. I am pro-production. I am a producer in my past life. While I import, but I produce a lot more,” the Laurel said.

Laurel said that he has also been ordered by the president to “clean up” the ranks of the DA to weed out officials engaging in corruption.

He added that he will be convening an “intelligence group” to identify sources of corruption within the agency. — with reports by Ian Nicolas Cigaral


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