THE Duterte administration expects the price of rice to decline further on the second year of the law lifting import restrictions that brought prices to a seven-year low.

During a Palace briefing on Wednesday, Socioeconomic Undersecretary Mercedita A. Sombilla said the price of rice could fall to around P34 to P35 per kilo this year, from the current price of around P36 per kilo — the lowest since 2013.

She said prices are seen to drop with the implementation of the Rice Tarriffication Law (RTL) and measures to boost production of rice farmers, particularly through the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF).

Ngayon pumalo na tayo at P36…The lowest one that we saw was in 2013 which was P33.70 and ito ngayon ang pinakamababa after six years, seven years. Hopefully, talagang bababa pa rin tayo with the intercession of the RCEF that will increase production of rice… We are hoping that the retail price will go down,” Ms. Sombilla said.

“It depends on how all of these will work out, but we are hoping it could still go down to P34 or P35 this year. There are so many factors, including how the world market will be evolving in the coming months.”

Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar said during the same briefing that P2.3 billion for the RCEF has already been approved by President Rodrigo R. Duterte and is expected to be released soon in order to assist farmer beneficiaries under the RTL.

“P2.3 billion is awaiting to be fully accessed and through the program’s steering committee of the rice competitiveness enhancement fund, We are going to request the allocation of P1.3 billion for crop diversification and P1 billion for crop insurance….Again, for the very purpose of helping rice farmers increased their levels of productivity, competitiveness and profitability,” Mr. Dar said.

The Agriculture secretary assured that the rice inventory is currently good for 80 days, and no shortage in rice is expected. — Gillian M. Cortez