Palace: No need to panic over reports NFA has run out of rice
The Palace said NFA rice makes up a small percentage of the country's rice supply.
Palace: No need to panic over reports NFA has run out of rice
( - April 3, 2018 - 5:42pm

MANILA, Philippines — There is no need to panic over the rice supply in the country, Malacañang said Tuesday, following reports that the inventory of the National Food Authority has been depleted.

Reports about the NFA running out of rice surfaced anew Tuesday morning, days after the NFA Council recommended an audit of the operations of the grains agency. 

But Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the Philippines has "more than sufficient" supply of the staple.  

"We all know that the stocks of the NFA are running low but the overall rice supply is more than sufficient with plenty to spare. No need to panic," Guevarra said in a text message. 

Guevarra said the government would continue to monitor the activities of rice traders to prevent the manipulation of rice prices. 

"An unusual rise in price despite more than adequate supplies could only be the result of manipulation. The government will monitor rice traders very closely," Guevarra said. 

There is also need to adjust the importation schedule of NFA, he added. 

"There is no shortage so the same importation schedule will be followed," Guevarra said.  

The reports prompted Sen. Grace Poe to call for NFA Administrator Jason Aquino to resign, saying "ff there is indeed a zero percent buffer of rice, this is an indication of the inefficiency of his leadership."

"The NFA's buffer stock is a lifeline for the thousands of Filipinos who subsist on rice and little else. Rice is the most important staple food for at least 10 million poor Filipinos," she also said in a statement.

Palace: NFA only constitutes 4-5% of supply

Office of the Secretary to the Cabinet Assistant Secretary Jonas Soriano noted that the NFA only constitutes four to five percent of the rice supply in the market.

The OFfice of the Cabinet Secretary oversees the operation of NFA. 

Soriano also questioned claims that the NFA's rice supply has been wiped out, saying the grains agency sold a lot of rice during the Christmas season. 

"We noticed in the NFA report that in October, November and December, they sold a lot of rice. It was harvest season, so why sell lots of rice during Christmas season? During the lean season when there was not much rice, they did not sell a lot. So where's the logic?" he said. 

Soriano reiterated the need to conduct an "independent audit" of the operations of the NFA management since President Duterte assumed office in 2016. He said such audit would detect patterns and enable agencies to craft policies to ensure that farmers and consumers are protected.  

"It is important that we improve on how management procures rice," Soriano said. 

"We'll make sure that rice would be available, even the NFA rice," he added. 

The NFA Council has allowed the grains agency to import 250,000 metric tons of rice to increase its buffer stock.

The NFA is required to have a buffer stock that is good for at least 15 days during harvest season and at least 30 days during the lean months of July to September. 

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