“We should resist any notion, especially the one couched in populist terms, that we use borrowed money in buying rice from abroad,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said yesterday. Miguel de Guzman

‘Rice sufficiency effort should not bloat NFA’s debt’
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - February 19, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The government has been urged to ensure that its effort to meet the country’s demand for rice will not bloat the P172-billion liabilities of the National Food Authority (NFA).

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto  said a large chunk of NFA’s debt could have been used to boost local production instead of subsidizing foreign rice growers through importation.

“We should resist any notion, especially the one couched in populist terms, that we use borrowed money in buying rice from abroad,” Recto said yesterday.

He said the audited financial report of the NFA for 2016 showed an agency “deep in red.” 

The NFA had non-current domestic loans of P82.1 billion and P2.2 billion in payable interests, and P13.9 billion in maturing debts.

For its notes payable in 2016, P21 billion was owed to the Development Bank of the Philippines, and P15 billion to the Land Bank of the Philippines, he said.

Recto said rice security could be achieved in the long run by “boosting production, investing in irrigation and cutting post-harvest losses, which wastes 17 percent of palay harvest.”

 At least 2.5 million metric tons of rice per year – sufficient to meet the annual needs of 14 million people or more than the population of Metro Manila – go to waste due to lack or poor post-harvest facilities, he said. 

“If we have P5 billion, we can use it to buy palay or increase by 40 times the government’s current budget for post-harvest facilities,” Recto said. 

But the senator said the NFA should continue maintaining a buffer stock, noting the national interest requires to have this reserve in a manner that is fiscally responsible and financially sustainable. 

“Imports should pay duties, and should have an arrival time that will not compete with local palay harvest, and must not dampen the palay gate prices,” he said.

NATIONAL FOOD AUTHORITY RALPH RECTO RICE SUFFICIENCY EFFORT
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