No rice crisis, no NICA report, says Palace

Published by rudy Date posted on April 14, 2011

FORT MAGSAYSAY, Nueva Ecjia, Philippines  — President Aquino belied yesterday reports of a looming rice crisis and insisted that concerned government agencies claimed that the unrest in North Africa, the Middle East and the disaster in Japan could only affect the prices of food.

Aquino told reporters at the start of the Phl-US Balikatan military exercises here that the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (NICA) did not send any report about the rice crisis.

Aquino said the briefing paper that he got was about global developments, citing as example the fire in Russia that affected their wheat supply.

“In Brazil, their production of sugar was reduced. Indonesia, which did not import rice, is now importing. There are many other examples. Bottomline, there is really pressure on food prices,” Aquino said.

The President said the looming crisis would depend on the situation in Japan and the political unrest in the Middle East.

“All of these exert pressure. For example, wheat is used for bread, the price increased and those who were into wheat are shifting to rice. So we who are traditionally eating rice now face additional pressure because of competition. But the way it was written (news reports last Tuesday), I think it was alarmist,” Aquino said.

The President said the Department of Agriculture had projected better farm output and though the country would need 1.3 million metric tons of rice, this could be addressed by importation and good harvest by local farmers.

“NICA said there is no looming rice crisis,” Aquino said, adding that NICA had already made the necessary clarification.

The President also said he does not have to order national security officials on what they should do because that should be automatic.

“So they reviewed all of the materials around that period and both of them (were) contacted (Tuesday) and they did say that they did research… but they never sent such a report. But there are general descriptions that there are problems in the world food supply. You can read the open access media… there are really pressures on world food supply,” Aquino said.

Senator eyes probe on fake NICA report

Sen. Francis Pangilinan called for an investigation into the release of a bogus NICA report about an impending rice crisis in the country, which has sparked widespread speculation and concern.

Pangilinan, chairman of the Senate committee on agriculture and food, said that the people behind the report should be exposed and punished.

Malacañang, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and NICA have denied the report and aired their suspicions that some groups in the rice trading sector may be behind it.

Alcala admitted that big rice importers that operate like a cartel could very well be behind the release of the report in order to fuel speculation and give them a reason to jack up prices.

Pangilinan, who earlier cited the NICA report and called on the government to prepare for a possible rice crisis, said that while the problem of rising food prices is real, the last thing that the country needs right now is speculation fueled by an erroneous report.

“There is nothing funny about this issue which is too sensitive to be used by unscrupulous groups or individuals for their own interests,” Pangilinan said in Filipino.

Pangilinan said that he is working closely with the Department of Agriculture in monitoring the state of the nation’s food supply.

Together with the Congressional Oversight Committee on Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization and the private sector, a task force was created whose mandate is to ensure food security.

The task force, named Agriculture and Fisheries 2025 (AF2025), includes all the major players in the food supply chain in the country and aims to provide long-term, sustainable solutions to the various problems that continue to plague the agricultural sector.   – Paolo Romero, Artemio Dumlao, (The Philippine Star)

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