NFA insists on add’l rice imports

Louisse Maureen Simeon - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - State-run National Food Authority (NFA) continues to insist on the need for an immediate government-to-government importation of 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice inspite of a projected bumper harvest from local farmers.

NFA administrator Jason Aquino said there is a need to replenish the agency’s rice inventory to serve as buffer stock in preparation for the lean months.

Local farmers have already started their summer harvest and preliminary data from the Department of Agriculture showed production went up five percent to 4.1 million MT from the 3.9 million MT in the first quarter of 2016.

Despite enough local supply, Aquino said the agency could not buy from the farmers due to higher prices being offered by private traders.

The NFA currently needs an additional 490,800 MT or 9.8 million bags of rice to meet the mandated volume for food security.

“Much as we would want this additional stock to come from local produce, we cannot compete with the private traders who are offering prices much higher than the government’s support price,” Aquino said.

NFA’s field monitoring shows traders are buying palay (unhusked rice) from the summer harvest at an average of P18-20 per kilogram while the government support price is only at P17 per kg.

At this point, Aquino emphasized the only way NFA could fill the deficit in its rice buffer stock requirement is through importation.

“It’s always better safe than sorry especially when dealing with our people’s basic staple. If the government does not possess the right volume of stocks when the lean months come, who would provide for the needs of calamity victims? Surely not the private businessmen who will never transact business at a loss,” Aquino said.

The NFA is mandated to maintain a food security reserve good for at least 15 days at any given time.

By July 1, which marks the onset of the lean season for rice, the NFA must have at least a 30-day buffer stock to meet the requirements of victims of calamities and emergencies.

Aquino continues to seek approval from the NFA Council to allow the importation of the 250,000 MT of rice  which might not be granted anytime soon following the rift between Aquino and Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco who chairs the NFA Council.

It will be recalled that the Food Security Committee approved 500,000 MT of rice imports last year, half of which had been already awarded to Thailand and Vietnam.

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