The Philippine government may remove the ceiling on rice prices in two weeks as local harvests start to come in, Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual said.

The price cap, imposed last week, is necessary to prevent further increases in rice costs, Pascual told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Manila on Monday. The Philippines, one of the world’s top buyers of the staple grain, is still in discussions with major rice exporter Vietnam for imports, he added.

The Philippines’ rice inflation rate was the highest in nearly five years in August, reviving memories of a 2018 shock that ended a two-decade-old limit on imports. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who’s also agriculture chief, capped rice prices from Sept. 5 to contain an “alarming” spike in retail costs amid reports of hoarding by traders. 

About 95% of retailers were able to comply with the price cap and that his agency has served a warning to those who failed to follow, Pascual said.

Agriculture Undersecretary Leo Sebastian expects domestic rough rice production to exceed 11 million metric tons in the second half of 2023, “and barring strong typhoons in the remaining months of the year, we hope to hit the 20-million MT” output, according to a statement from Marcos’s communications office on Sunday.

That forecast compares with output of 19.76 million metric tons in 2022 and follows a 3% increase in the first half of this year to 9 million metric tons.

Pascual also said the head of the National Economic and Development Authority Arsenio Balisacan “would be a good fit” to lead the Department of Agriculture in case Marcos relinquishes the post.