NFA defends sale of cheap rice; farmers slam ‘mafia’

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
NFA defends sale of cheap rice; farmers slam �mafia�
The NFA Council allows the NFA management to dispose of aging stocks up to 10 percent lower than the mandated price and the damaged stocks,” the NFA said in a statement.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines —  The National Food Authority yesterday defended the sale of rice to some traders, saying the NFA is allowed to dispose of aging stocks amid the alleged anomalous sale of rice to traders.

“The NFA Council allows the NFA management to dispose of aging stocks up to 10 percent lower than the mandated price and the damaged stocks,” the NFA said in a statement.

“The current NFA management was able to responsibly dispose of its rice stocks to government accounts by stretching to maximum shelf-life, minimizing the sale of residual volume to other accounts by implementing stricter guidelines and safeguards,” the NFA added.

The NFA said the agency is mandated to keep and dispose of 99.9 percent stocks in good and consumable condition.

“The rice we are selling are all sold at the mandated selling price P25 per kilo, although aging stocks need to be remilled before they could be released to the consumers,” it said.

“Freshly milled stocks within three months after selling are reserved for calamity relief and leftovers of more than three months after milling shall be disposed for inventory management purposes as per NFA guidelines before the stocks become unfit for human consumption,” it added.

Farmers’ group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) however said that a mafia still operates inside the NFA.

“This (controversy) erupted, obviously, there is still a mafia inside. The Department of Agriculture (DA) should determine if this is new or still the old one,” SINAG executive director Jayson Cainglet told The STAR.

“If this is true, this means that officials were using the agency to earn money. It does not even reflect on the retail prices. Somebody is benefiting from this, meaning, the reported mafia inside the NFA is still existing so there is a need to finally unmask these (individuals),” Cainglet added.

DA probe

Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Francisco Tiu Laurel Jr. has ordered an investigation over the anomalies in the sale of cheap rice by the NFA.

Agriculture spokesman Arnel de Mesa said the allegations on the corruption of certain officials at the NFA came from inside and outside the agency.

“The Secretary wants the truth to come out as it is possible that it was purely internal squabbles and not related to sale of NFA rice. All of these are being considered in the investigation,” De Mesa added.

He gave assurance that Laurel will not tolerate corruption within the DA, and that officials of NFA continue to perform their functions while the investigation is ongoing.

“There is no case yet,” De Mesa said.

Cainglet expressed confidence that Laurel will not tolerate the alleged anomalies at the NFA.

For her part, rice watchdog group Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo backed the investigation being conducted by the DA.

Estavillo added that under Republic Act 11203 or the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), the NFA’s only mandate is to buy palay for buffer stocking for calamities and emergencies.

“It is not allowed to sell rice,” Estavillo said.

Federation of Free Farmers national manager Raul Montemayor said that as a general rule, NFA is supposed to dispose of its buffer stock only during calamities and emergencies.

“However, the implementation rules and regulations of the RTL also allowed such disposal in cases when the stored stocks are about to deteriorate so that they can be replaced with newer stocks. How these deteriorating stocks are disposed of is the issue here. When can the stocks be considered deteriorating?” Montemayor said.

“Are these stocks to be bidded out or negotiated with interested buyers? It is possible that the stocks mentioned in the complaint were actually deteriorating already. But I do not know if selling the stocks through negotiated bids instead of auction was the correct way to dispose of them,” he said.

Montemayor added that he received reports that during past administrations of the NFA, large volumes of newly bought stocks were sold at low prices to favored traders and clients. – Ramon Efren Lazaro

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