RICE PRICES are rising even during the dry season harvest, reflecting the higher cost of fertilizer, according to a farmers’ organization.

In a Viber message, Raul Q. Montemayor, chairman of Federation of Free Farmers, said high fertilizer prices raised the cost of production for palay (unmilled rice).

In Metro Manila markets, the price of domestically-produced rice between March 1 and March 15 rose P2 per kilogram compared with February levels, while the price of imported rice rose around P4, according to government price monitoring reports.

According to Mr. Montemayor, the dry season crop accounts for about 44% of annual rice production. The harvest for this crop is currently ongoing.

Mr. Montemayor also attributed higher prices to the rising cost of rice in Vietnam, one of the Philippines’ top suppliers of the staple grain.

He said that the “overall increase in import prices allowed local prices to inch up.”

“We expected this to happen in late 2022, but large imports during the year may have resulted in some delayed reaction which we are seeing now,” Mr. Montemayor said.

Citing data from the Bureau of Customs, Mr. Montemayor said that the Philippines imported 3.85 million metric tons of rice in 2022 which was the highest total since the rice tariffication law took effect in 2019.

He said imports do not seem to have kept prices from increasing.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Rex C. Estoperez said that prices usually increase during the dry season, but agreed that fertilizer costs were a factor.

Mr. Estoperez said that the Philippines has been heavily dependent on chemical fertilizer.

“It might be better to source locally. Either organic or chemical fertilizer, it is better to have (domestic production) so that we are not dependent on imports,” he said.

“We still cannot say that the (rice prices) have normalized as the harvest has not peaked yet. We are still dependent on the remaining supply we are importing,” Mr. Estoperez told reporters. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera