NFA to import rice only as last recourse – DA

Bella Cariaso - The Philippine Star
NFA to import rice only as last recourse � DA
National Food Authority rice stocks.
File photo courtesy of NFA

MANILA, Philippines — Allowing the National Food Authority to import rice is a last option for the government, an official of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said yesterday amid opposition from farmers’ groups to return the NFA’s power to source the staple outside the country.

Arnel de Mesa, spokesman for the DA, said the NFA would only be authorized to import rice when necessity arises.

“It will only be allowed (to import rice) as a last recourse. It can also buy rice if there is shortage and during extraordinary events,” De Mesa said.

Groups have opposed the move to allow the NFA to import rice.

Farmers’ group Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG) chairman Rosendo So said there is no need to give the NFA additional powers.

Rice watchdog group Bantay Bigas spokesperson Cathy Estavillo said the government should instead provide more budget to the NFA to buy more palay and sell it to the markets.

But De Mesa said the NFA would only be allowed to import rice upon the recommendation of different committees and approval of the DA secretary.

He gave assurance that there would be adequate safeguards once the NFA is allowed again to import the grains.

“The NFA has no sole authority to do this (importation) without the approval of the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture,” he said.

De Mesa said that under the proposed amendments to the Rice Tariffication Law, the regulatory functions of the NFA would be returned including requiring grain warehouses to register with the agency.

“The NFA will be allowed to inspect warehouses to determine if the volume and quality of rice and palay stored therein are correct,” he said.

The DA also wants to return the function of the NFA on price stabilization and supply regulation.

“Under the proposed amendments, in case extraordinary events occur, and there is a spike in prices and acute shortage in the supply, the NFA can intervene,” De Mesa said.

He said the NFA should be given additional funds of up to 50 percent of its allocation for buffer stocks.

“This could be used to replenish (stocks), use it to intervene in the market,” De Mesa added.

He said aside from its function to procure palay, the NFA should be authorized to buy rice from traders.

Although they are supportive of the restoration of the agency’s mandate to regulate the retail price of the staple, SINAG and Bantay Bigas said the NFA should focus on the procurement of palay from farmers.

Estavillo said the government should not be dependent on rice importation, but instead boost the country’s local production.

She said the government could not rely on imported rice amid the high prices in the world market.

Estavillo reiterated her call to junk the Rice Tariffication Law or Republic Act 11203.

Meanwhile, So said the NFA failed to use its P8-billion budget for palay procurement last year, so the agency has P17 billion this year, which it can use to procure 566,666 tons of palay or 351,333 tons of rice.

He said that while SINAG supports the amendments to the RTL, these should only cover the increase in the funding allocated under the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund from the current P10 billion to P30 billion.

NFA welcomes back 72 employees

Meanwhile, the 72 reinstated employees of the NFA have returned to their posts following the lifting by the Office of the Ombudsman of their suspension.

Acting NFA administrator Larry Lacson led the welcoming of the employees.

“This means we have 72 more human power and this will greatly help our operation,” Lacson said.

He said that although up to 45 more employees remain suspended, he was happy that the 72 warehouse supervisors can resume their functions.

“I appealed to the ombudsman to lift the suspension order, because it paralyzed our operations. Hopefully, the suspension of other employees will be lifted soon and they be allowed to return to work,” he said.

The ombudsman lifted the six-month preventive suspension it imposed on 72 of 139 officials and employees of the NFA in connection with the allegedly anomalous sale of the government’s rice buffer stock to favored private traders.

vuukle comment


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with