House panel to probe pest-ridden imported rice, price spikes

MANILAThe House committee on agriculture on Monday said it will investigate the inefficiency of the National Food Authority (NFA) to address the country's perennial rice problem.

Committee chairman Jose Panganiban made the announcement in the light of recent reports of soaring rice prices in Zamboanga, as well as the weevil infestation involving over 100,000 sacks of rice.

Panganiban said he has already sent letters to the NFA and Department of Agriculture (DA), seeking an explanation regarding the said incidents.

Authorities discovered 133,000 sacks of rice from Thailand infested with rice weevils at the Subic Bay Freeport Zone last week.

Meanwhile, Zamboanga City experienced rice shortage as prices of rice soared from PHP54 to PHP70 per kilogram.

Panganiban described as "irresponsible" NFA's statement that the pest-ridden rice are safe for consumption after fumigation, noting that there should be a certification issued by the DA that it is fit for human consumption.

"'Pag siguro cinertify ng DA na pwedeng kainin, pwedeng kainin pero nakakatakot kainin 'di ba? (If the DA certified that it's safe for consumption, then it can be consumed but it's still dreadful to eat it, right?)," he said.

Meanwhile, House appropriations committee chairman Karlo Nograles challenged NFA administrator Jason Aquino to act on rising rice prices and the shortage of NFA rice in the market after inspecting the supplies of the food staple and speaking to rice retailers in Cagayan de Oro.

This is in response to Aquino's statement challenging legislators and concerned parties to go around the country to learn more about the issues involving rice.

The NFA Administrator is right; we legislators should go out in the field and really look into the problems in the rice industry. The short recess of Congress provided an opportunity to go to our markets and learn firsthand about the prices and supplies of riceand what I discovered is very worrisome, Nograles said.

Nograles said he discovered that there is a large spike in rice prices in Cagayan de Oro because the NFA has slashed the supply of NFA rice in Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) and diverted it to Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) to address the rice crisis.

Nograles noted that the supply of NFA rice was reduced from 100 sacks to 25 sacks per week.

"Dahil dito halos nag-aaway at nag-aagawan ng NFA rice sa merkado pag meron dumadating na NFA rice and obviously mabilis maubos(Because of this, the consumers are fighting over NFA rice in the market and would run out immediately), Nograles said.

The lawmaker said the residents of Cagayan de Oro have no choice but to buy commercial rice.

"The absence of cheaper alternatives in the form of NFA rice has allowed commercial rice suppliers to dictate rice prices in the market," Nograles said. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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