MANILA, Philippines – Filipino farmers are benefitting from global fears of a rice shortage resulting from the adverse possible impact of El Niño phenomenon, which forced world suppliers to tighten supply in the world market, an agriculture official said on Monday.

According to Assistant Secretary and Deputy Spokesperson Rex C. Estoperez of the Department of Agriculture (DA), the farmgate prices for fresh and dry palay have increased in April as compared to the previous month, due to the high demand and limited supply of rice in the international market.

He said that the El Niño phenomenon, which is expected to affect the country’s agricultural output from the last quarter of 2023 to the first quarter of 2024, has also prompted some rice-exporting countries to restrict their exports to ensure their own food security.

“This is an opportunity for our farmers to earn more from their harvests, especially now that we have a stable rice supply in the country,” Estoperez said in a press briefing.

He added that the DA has been providing various interventions to help the farmers cope with the effects of El Niño, such as irrigation services, fertilizer distribution, crop insurance, and emergency loans.

He also assured the public that there is no need to panic over rice shortage or price spikes, as the country has enough rice stocks to last for more than 50 days.

He said that the DA is also recommending that private traders import an additional 500,000 metric tons of rice to cover possible crop losses caused by El Niño.

He urged the consumers to patronize locally produced rice, which are available in government-run trading centers called Kadiwa, where they can buy rice at affordable prices.

He also warned rice hoarders and price manipulators not to take advantage of the situation, as the government is closely monitoring the market prices and supply of rice.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure food security and stability in the country, especially amid this pandemic and climate change. We ask for the cooperation and support of all stakeholders, especially our farmers and consumers, in this endeavor,” Estoperez said.