Manila ? Farmers and civil society groups urged the National Food Authority on Monday to intervene in the market to prevent any more increases in the prices of rice.
These groups have likewise urged Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap to investigate rice traders, who, they said, should answer for the rice prices.
"Instead of dismissing the trend as a normal price movement, Yap should hold the rice traders accountable for possible overpricing," said Jaime Tadeo, president of National Rice Farmers Council (NRFC).
The groups issued a joint statement on Monday amid reports that the prices of rice had increased by P2 per kilo in Cebu and P1 in the National Capital Region (NCR).
According to Tadeo, Yap "has no business attributing the current retail price of P36 per kilo to an increase in farmgate price of palay at P16 per kilo. The farmers have no more stocks left in their hands."
Tadeo explained that the traders bought the farmers' harvests in October and November at a low price of P7 to 8 per kilo, which was due largely to the damage caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.
Palay spared from the damage was bought at a slightly higher P13 to 14 per kilo.
Trinidad Domingo, president of the coalition of women farmers, Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), said the farmers did not cause the price increases "because they have sold their produce long ago to the traders because they needed the money to help them recover from the damage caused by the calamities."
Meanwhile, the Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) said Yap should investigate farmers' claims to dispel doubts that the agriculture department was holding rice traders as sacred cows.
"We want the government to send the unscrupulous rice traders a stronger message than Yap merely justifying the rising trend in prices," said Jessica Reyes-Cantos, R1 lead convenor.
The group also called on the NFA to begin flooding the market with its lower-priced rice.