‘Not yet possible’ to bring rice prices down to P20, Dar says 

PHILIPPINE STAR/ MICHAEL VARCAS

AGRICULTURE Secretary William D. Dar said on Wednesday that bringing down the price of rice to P20 per kilogram, as promised on campaign by President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., is not achievable unless the government brings down production costs. 

Mr. Dar, who leaves office at the end of the month, estimated the production cost of palay, or unmilled rice, has soared to P14.80 per kilo from P11.50 per kilo after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine raised fertilizer and fuel prices.

“The farmgate price, or when you buy the palay at 14% moisture content, is at P19 per kilo,” he told ABS-CBN’s TeleRadyo. As a result, he said, P20 rice is “not yet possible.”

Mr. Dar, who served a previous term as Agriculture Secretary between 1998 and 1999, said the government’s P3-billion subsidy for fertilizer is also not enough.

During the campaign, Mr. Marcos made his promise on rice prices, which he later described as “aspirational.” Economists said such a program could swell the national debt if carried out. Farmer groups and other stakeholders said they were not consulted on that electoral promise. 

Albay Rep. Jose Maria Clemente S. Salceda has said that P20 rice is only possible if the Philippines imports rice from Vietnam and removes all taxes.

Mr. Dar said that the production cost has to be lowered to achieve the ambitious goal.

The cost of palay production is currently at P8 per kilo in Thailand and P6 per kilo in Vietnam, he added.

“The aspiration of our President-elect is a good sign,” Mr. Dar said. “All of our endeavors should be planned so we can achieve that level of price for rice at P20.”

“One way to really reduce the price of rice is to reduce your cost of production,” he added.

The Philippine Confederation of Grains Associations earlier said Mr. Marcos’ promise, which analysts have described as populist, is only possible with subsidies. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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