DTI says subsidy eyed for small rice retailers, asks for their ‘sacrifice’ amid price cap

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 2) — The government is eyeing possible subsidies and other ways to assist small businesses that will be affected by the price ceiling on rice, an official of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said on Saturday.

Trade Assistant Secretary Agaton Uvero said an assistance program is “in the works” to help keep small traders and retailers afloat until rice prices stabilize, according to the Presidential Communications Office.

“'Yung lead agencies naman dito, LGUs (local government units) and DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government), tapos DA (Department of Agriculture), DTI," Uvero said.

"Pagdating sa pagtulong sa maliliit na negosyante, DTI parati naman iyong lead agency diyan eh, so may mga pinag-uusapan na subsidies, 'yung mga ganoon,” he added.

[Translation: The lead agencies here are the LGUs, the DILG, the DA, and the DTI. When it comes to helping small entrepreneurs, the DTI always takes the lead, so there are talks on subsidies and the like.]

Uvero, meanwhile, urged small businesses to “sacrifice” for the benefit of consumers. He said they have likely reaped windfall profits due to previous price increases.

“Hinihingi ng pamahalaan 'yung sakripisyo ng mga retailers na medyo tumulong din sila sa mga mamamayan, sa nakakarami [The government is asking for retailers to sacrifice and also help the majority of Filipinos],” the official said.

Under Executive Order No. 39 which will take effect on Tuesday, Sept. 5, regular milled rice may only be sold for up to ₱41 per kilo, while the price ceiling on well-milled rice is at ₱45 per kilo.

Small businesses which bought rice at higher prices are expected to operate at a loss.

Uvero, however, said that based on their estimates, a breakeven is possible.

“Based sa computation namin, puwede kasing ibenta pa na siguro hindi naman lugi, baka wala nga lang kita," he said. "Kahit 'yung pagod, hindi makabalik, pero at least 'yung sa cost mismo noong capital makakaya pa.”

[Translation: Based on our computation, they can sell rice without suffering losses, although they may also not earn profits. The amount of work they put in may not be compensated, but at least the cost of the capital can be recovered.]

Uvero said the price ceiling may be in effect for less than two months, or after additional rice supply arrives to help stabilize prices.

He added that the recommendation to lift the price cap will come from the DA.

“It may be shorter than the usual 60 days," UVero explained. "It depends on the members and the studies, but it may be shorter even from the usual 60-day period from price freeze. Ito kasi price cap, ang price cap kasi walang fixed period [This is a price cap, which doesn’t have a fixed period].”

“May mga parallel importations na itinutulak ang gobyerno, lalo na 'yung Indian rice, at papasok na rin 'yung harvest season [The government is pushing parallel importation, especially of Indian rice, and the harvest season will be starting soon],” he added.

The trade official also assured that authorities will go after hoarders and profiteers, which the government said are behind the artificial rice shortage and price hikes.