NFA mulls 500,000-MT add’l rice imports

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino government intends to increase imports of cheap rice to continuously drive down prices, but would also continue programs to strengthen the production capability of farmers, Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francis Pangilinan said late Monday.

Pangilinan confirmed President Aquino’s pronouncement during his fifth state of the nation address of a standby authority for the National Food Administration for the importation of an additional 500,000 metric tons (MT) of rice for this year if needed.

If exercised, the rice importation allowed by the standby authority would be made on top of the 800,000 MT imported early this year and the 500,000 MT programmed for open bidding next month.

Pangilinan said the authority for additional importation – which was taken up during the last NFA council meeting held on July 22 – is valid for this year only.

“The standby authority covers up to 500,000 MT but it may or may not be exercised. Assuming it is exercised, it may be less than the ceiling of 500,000 MT,” Pangilinan said.

The additional rice importation may be carried out depending on supply conditions as affected by typhoons, the expected occurrence of a dry spell later this year, and the production level in the fourth quarter.

Pangilinan assured, though, that the government is not abandoning its goal to attain self-sufficiency in rice and other food staples.

“The decision to import is to address the current need to ensure steady supply and is not connected with our desire to attain self sufficiency. That goal will continue,” he said.

President Aquino, in his State of the Nation address (SONA) Monday, acknowledged the prevalence of “greedy rice hoarders” who stockpile supplies for release to the market when prices are high.

“We will not let this pass. Perhaps they think they are being clever, but the govenrment’s plan of action will prove the opposite. Our immediate solution: import more rice, supply it to the markets, reduce the prices and keep them at a reasonable level, and ultimately, drive those who took advantage of the Filipino people into financial ruin,” said Aquino.

This move is expected to force rice hoaders to immediately release their stockpile.

“To these hoarders, if a showdown is what you want, by all means, take on the government. Just remember: it only take six months before the stock you have hoarded in your warehouses begins to rot. When we flood the market with this imported rice, you will surely go bust,” said Aquino.

The President said government employees suspected of collaborating with unscrupulous traders are now being investigated for the filing of appropriate charges.

Aquino said that as the government cracks down on unscrupulous rice trading, programs for increasing the competitiveness of the agriculture sector would continue to be implemented.

“While we are in the pursuit of those abusive few, we have also continued to implement projects to uplift Filipinos in the sector of agriculture. We are ensuring that rice farming remains a viable and attractive livelihood. After all, we know that our farmers are advancing in age, which is why it will help our pursuit of food security to encourage the youth to enter this kind of work,” the President said.

The Department of Agriculture’s Food Staple Sufficiency Program (FSSP) is the Aquino administration’s banner food security program to attain sufficiency in rice and major staples like white corn, root crops and plantains.

The FSSP entails satisfying the regular domestic consumption requirement as well as the buffer stocking requirement for food staples.

The government is rushing to integrate farmers into the value chain as the free trade regime within Southeast Asia is implemented by 2015. Farmers are thus being groomed as entrepreneurs who can engage in food processing and marketing of their produce.












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