Zamboanga City starts rice procurement to reduce market prices

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RICE SUPPLY at the Sta. Cruz Market has stabilized, according to the Zamboanga City government following an inspection on Aug. 23, but prices are still high at P56 to P62 per kilo. The same rice varieties were sold at P58 to P65 per kilo last week. — ZAMBOANGA CAO

THE ZAMBOANGA City government has started buying rice for distribution to the market at controlled prices following a shortage since early this month that saw rates go up to as much as P80 per kilo.

A state of calamity was declared last Monday to allow the city government to tap the emergency fund for rice procurement.

Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar announced yesterday that they have reached a deal with one distributor for the supply of 100,000 sacks of rice at 25 kilos per sack.

She said this is in addition to the 40,000 sacks provided by the National Food Authority (NFA) and additional supply from Cotabato and the municipalities of Sibugay.

A monitoring team has also confirmed the availability of supply coming from Isabela province and imported from India.

“This is a very positive development. We are looking at the normalization of rice supply pending harvest this September and pending also the supply of rice for Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi,” the mayor said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced yesterday that it will be setting up a temporary TienDA to sell rice on Saturday.

Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said that the TienDA, also called the “Bigasan ng Masa”, will be selling both regular milled and well-milled rice to residents of Zamboanga and neighboring cities until the supply from the National Food Authority and private traders arrive.

Mr. Piñol also said that he will be meeting with local government officials to discuss plans for their respective rice programs.

“We would like to ask them to revive their rice programs in other cities but also ask them to commit to stop rice smuggling,” he added.

The DA chief said this is a “crisis of their own making.”

“They abandoned their rice program because they depended on smuggled rice.”

“We will find a source of rice [for them]. DA is already helping. I already called producers on other parts of Mindanao,” he added.

The DA will also push for the development of rice farm corporations in the provinces to ensure self-sufficiency within localities. — with a report from Anna Gabriela A. Mogato