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Experts Criticize P29/kilo Rice Plan as Unsustainable

MANILA, Philippines — In Kadiwa stores, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is selling rice for P29 per kilogram, but the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc. (PCAFI) warns that this program would give the underprivileged false hope. PCAFI President Danilo Fausto emphasized apprehensions regarding the program’s viability, pointing out that the DA’s rice subsidy is fixed at P20 per kilogram, or P220 million daily.

According to Fausto, the P29-per-kilo rice project could be a political ploy, possibly in response to President Marcos’ impending State of the Nation Address (SONA), as he hinted in an interview with The Star.

Fausto expressed concern that the program may be giving the impoverished false hope because it doesn’t appear sustainable. He stated that the 49,000 metric tons of rice that are going to expire can only be released as an initial supply by the National Food Authority (NFA).

To sustain the program for disadvantaged sectors, including as older citizens, people with disabilities, Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program participants, and single parents, the DA needs at least 11,000 metric tons of rice every day. According to Fausto, the rice was purchased for a premium price of P45 to P50 per kilogram, and since it was sold for P29 per kilogram, the government was losing P220 million every day. This implies a P20 per kilogram subsidy.

On Friday, the DA launched ten Kadiwa centers in Bulacan and Metro Manila as part of the P29 Rice program’s large-scale experiment. By late August or early September, according to Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr., the initiative will be extended to the Visayas and Mindanao.

Fausto questioned the NFA’s capacity to keep up the supply, particularly in the event of disasters, as well as the program’s budget. There are just 70,000 metric tons of rice in the NFA’s inventory, of which 37,000 metric tons are aging stocks that last for just two days.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary and spokesman Arnel de Mesa said the DA aims to increase the availability of P29-per-kilo rice from three days a week to five days. He assured that the program would continue until the end of Marcos’ term in 2028, adding that the initiative could help reduce inflation in the country.

The first ten Kadiwa stores, which are selling rice for P29 per kilogram, are spread throughout several locations in Metro Manila and Bulacan. These include the Bureau of Plant Industry compound in Manila, the Bureau of Animal Industry and National Irrigation Administration in Quezon City, Food Terminal Inc. in Taguig, and several other locations.

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