In a press briefing yesterday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez dispelled concerns that NFA rice would no longer be released to the market with the implementation of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act.
Boy Santos
NFA rice to benefit poor communities
Mary Grace Padin (The Philippine Star) - April 30, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Amid the reorganization of the National Food Authority (NFA), government officials assured that rice supplied by the agency would still be made available to the market, but only in select areas to ensure that only poor communities would benefit from cheaper rice.

In a press briefing yesterday, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez dispelled concerns that NFA rice would no longer be released to the market with the implementation of Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Act.

He said some NFA rice stocks that end up not being used for emergency purposes – as provided under the agency’s mandate – before their shelf life ends would most likely be unloaded in the domestic market.

“They will have to refresh the stocks. The stock of NFA is supposedly for calamities. If there are unused stocks, they will need to be refreshed so they will be released to the market,” Lopez said.  

However, Lopez and Socioeconomic Planning Assistant Secretary Mercedita Sombilla said extra stocks would only be released to select areas in the country, instead of being disbursed nationwide.

They said this would ensure that only poor households will benefit from cheap rice prices.

“We would want to have the (release of the) NFA rice to be more targeted so that only those in need will really benefit from cheap rice prices. It will be more targeted, that is one of the strategies that’s going to be developed by the NFA,” Sombilla said.

During the press briefing, Finance Assistant Secretary Antonio Lambino explained that many non-poor households were able to enjoy cheaper rice from the NFA in the previous system.

Citing the 2015 Family Income and Expenditure Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Lambino said NFA rice accounted for only 7.2 percent of total rice consumption in the country. Of this, around 43 percent was consumed by non-poor households.

According to Sombilla, the government would need to study which areas will continue to be given supply of NFA rice in case there are extra stocks.

“We’re going to be studying because there are different factors--calamity, deficiency of rice supply, portion of poor households in those areas. There are several factors we have to study,” she said.

Given the targeted approach to the sale of NFA rice, the official said the government may still be open to selling them at P27 per kilo, even without profit for the NFA.

“If it’s really necessary that it gives out at P27 per kilo, I think the government will subsidize that. Anyway, it’s targeted already,” Sombilla said.

The Rice Tariffication Law strips the NFA of its import licensing and regulatory functions. It has, however, retained the agency’s role of maintaining emergency rice buffer stocks.

NATIONAL FOOD AUTHORITY
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