Agriculture chief: Zamboanga rice crisis is over

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Prices are pegged from ₱54 to ₱70 per kilogram in Zamboanga City — particularly in outlying villages — while NFA rice is P32 per kilo.

Zamboanga City (CNN Philippines, August 25) — Agriculture Chief Manny Piñol declared on Friday that the Zamboanga rice supply crisis is now over, with the entry of buffer stocks.

In a Facebook post Friday, Piñol met with Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco, Zamboanga Sibugay Governor Wilter Palma and representatives from the island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

"Local officials today heaved a sigh of relief as it was officially declared that the crisis is over with the arrival of fresh stocks from the National Food Authority (NFA) and the neighboring provinces where harvest has started," the agriculture chief said.

A resolution from the Zamboanga City Council asked President Rodrigo Duterte to allow the special import allocation of 2,240,000 bags or 132,000 metric tons of rice, and provide technical support for 1,000 hectares of arable lands in Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi (ZAMBASULTA).

The resolution also called to stop smuggling and proposed to come up with a Rice Trade Center in the ZAMBASULTA area, without prejudice to rice providers from nearby provinces of Zamboanga Sibugay.

The ZAMBASULTA region, which Piñol said was largely dependent on smuggled rice from Vietnam, ran out of commercial rice supply a month ago when Malaysian and Filipino authorities have stopped the rice smuggling operations.

Piñol added it would now depend on the local government units to strictly monitor and control rice prices. He believed that the current prices of rice will take time to reduce as this is the nature of the market.

Prices are pegged from ₱54 to ₱70 per kilogram in Zamboanga City — particularly in outlying villages — while NFA rice is P32 per kilo.

"We are still finding ways on how to stabilize the prices, and bring them back to normal," Mayor Climaco explained, adding that guided actions will be made to patch up the demand.

Mayor Climaco said ample stocks have arrived from sources, including Manila, Titay in Zamboanga Sibugay, and Molave in Zamboanga del Sur. Commercial dealers have also pledged to deliver 100,000 sacks of rice, on top of 40,000 bags of NFA rice arriving within the week.