Rice price ceiling, more raids 'stabilize' prices – lawmakers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 11) —The government's price cap and launch of more raids against rice hoarders have "significantly contributed to the subsequent drop in global rice prices," lawmakers said.

Quezon 1st District Rep. Mark Enverga, who chairs the House Committee on Agriculture and Food, said Sunday that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s decision to implement a price ceiling on the commodity was "a well-calculated move."

He added that it "has helped stabilize the rice market despite global market uncertainties."

Enverga also said Vietnam's rice prices also dropped last week as the Philippines canceled its orders amid possible losses from the price cap.

This was echoed by Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, saying that "the decline in global rice prices resulted from widespread cancellations of imported rice orders by rice traders and importers in response to the newly imposed price ceilings."

Marcos ordered the price ceiling on rice after the government detected a surge in prices. It started on Sept. 5.

READ: Gov't warns of stricter rice price cap implementation in coming days

For Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the surge in rice prices was "artificial."

"The cap ended the rice price spike. It is now clear that the soaring cost of the grain is artificial, driven by market speculation and rice traders driven by greed. Now, we have to manage our rice inventory better to avoid fueling the speculation here and in the global rice market," Salceda said.

However, some senators did not approve of the price ceiling, saying the government must instead focus on stomping out rice cartels and hoarding.

Rice retailers, meanwhile, called for immediate aid from the government. Last Friday, the Department of Social Welfare and Development said it would start distributing cash assistance to small-scale rice retailers in Metro Manila.

Gov't cracks down on hoarders, smugglers

Moreover, Enverga said customs authorities' boosted fight against hoarders complemented the price cap.

Late in August, the president directed the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to intensify its crackdown on warehouses allegedly hoarding rice supply and are involved in illegal rice importation. Marcos said smugglers and hoarders were behind the higher prices.

READ: Marcos orders Customs bureau to continue 'warehouse raids' to fight hoarding, illegal rice imports

Before August ended, the BOC found four Bulacan warehouses with ₱519-million worth of imported rice.

In a statement on Monday, the BOC said it further beefed up measures to counter smuggling through a meeting with the Serious and Organized Crime Threat Assessments (SOCTA) Research Team of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission.

Their dialogue touched on trade facilitation and border protection, it noted.

The BOC said SOCTA identifies criminal markets and areas, as well as determines whether these are committed by organized groups or individuals.