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DTI seeking to cancel permits of traders found selling only premium rice

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PHILSTAR/MICHAEL VARCAS

THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said it will seek to revoke the business permits of rice retailers who do not offer more affordable types of rice.

Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said the proposed policy will help increase the supply of regular-milled.

“Our DTI Regional Directors and Provincial Directors (ask) Mayors (with help of DILG) to issue an Executive Order as Chief Executives that they shall revoke business permits of rice retailers who do not sell regular (as well as) well-milled rice,” Mr. Lopez told reporters in a mobile message over the weekend.

“Applications for business permits for rice retail shall not be approved without a sworn undertaking from the applicant to sell regular and well-milled rice,” he added.

Domestic rice offered by the National Food Authority (NFA) comes in three grades for well-milled rice, between WD1 and WD3 in decreasing levels of price. For regular-milled the grades are RD1 to RD3. There is also a seventh grade of well-milled rice known as WD1-A, which commands the highest price, wholesaling for P30 per kilogram according to the NFA website.

Imported rice, on the other hand, is graded by percentage of broken grains.

The NFA offers low-cost rice to shield the poor from higher prices sold by commercial traders, and an order to commercial traders to sell rice in grades carried by the NFA appears intended to expand the availability of rice most commonly bought by the poor.

The DTI has also requested the NFA to “exert authority [in the form of] higher penalties or cancellation of license to require Rice retailers to always sell regular and well-milled… if they sell fancy premium rice.”

In a phone interview yesterday, NFA Deputy Administrator for marketing operations Judy Carol L. Dansal, a lawyer, confirmed the proposed policy, saying “it is part of a commitment” to make NFA-grade rice more available in the market.

The DTI said some outlets only offer premium rice which retails for at least P44 per kilo, against the P38 and P40 at which regular-milled and well-milled are respectively and currently being sold at the retail.

“[T]hat is why consumers find rice prices higher,” Mr. Lopez added.

The DTI also asked Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association Inc. to serve as outlets of NFA-grade rice.

“They will pick up from NFA warehouses,” and the NFA’s Ms. Dansal “has agreed,” Mr. Lopez added.

Ms. Dansal said the NFA will identify today, Monday, the supermarkets that can serve as NFA outlets.

The DTI will sign this week a memorandum of agreement with the NFA, which has sole authority to issue licenses to retailers selling rice sourced from the NFA’s warehouses. — Janina C. Lim