By Madelaine B. Miraflor
It was just more than a week ago since the National Food Authority (NFA) announced that the country may import 250,000 metric tons (MT) of rice this year. This plan is no longer pushing through as of today.
This, as interagency Food Security Committee (FSC) on Rice — chaired by the National Economic and Development Authority — has deferred the decision whether or not to allow NFA to import rice this year on the belief that the country’s rice supply remains stable.
NFA spokesperson Rebecca Olarte said yesterday that FSC has deferred the utilization of the 250,000 MT standby authority.
The decision came after FSC’s observation that as of now, local supply is enough to meet the daily requirement of the country and that any importation activity could disrupt the prices, according to Rocky Valdez, director of Grains Market and Operations Division of NFA.
“Our rice issuances and sales are calibrated. [There is] priority for relief operations and sales to LGUs [local government units] and other government agencies. [There is] minimal sales to accredited retailers,” Valdez said in a separate inquiry.
It was Olarte who said two weeks ago that there’s already a need for NFA to replenish its buffer stock, which declined significantly because of the typhoons that hit the country in the latter part of 2017.
This prompted the state-run grains agency to seek for the approval of NFA Council, which later on gave NFA the standby authority to import 250,000 MT of rice.
“The NFA Council gave us a standby authority to import 250,000 MT of rice, but this would still go through the Food Security Committee to specify the volume and the mode of procurement,” Olarte said in an earlier report.
Had FSC allowed NFA to push through with the importation, Olarte said rice shipments could already start arriving within the second quarter of the year.
It has already been reported before that the country’s dependence on rice imports may be reduced further this year.
To recall, the government was initially targeting to import 580,000 MT of rice this year until it was eventually reduced to 250,000 MT.
The NFA is required by law to have at least 15-day buffer stock at any given time and 30-day buffer stock during lean season, which usually starts in July until September.
In 2017, the country’s palay production reached 19.28 million MT, 9.36 percent above the 2016 output of 17.63 million MT.
Harvest area also expanded from 4.56 million hectares to 4.81 million hectares. Yield was up by 3.54 percent, from 3.87 MT per hectare in 2016 to 4.01 MT in 2017.
Right now, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is projecting palay output to increase by 5.65 percent to 4.67 million MT in the first three months of the year.
Probable increases in harvest area and yield are expected in all regions, except CAR, Ilocos Region, Central Luzon and Eastern Visayas.
“Farmers’ are optimistic to have better yield resulting from sufficient water supply and good weather condition favorable to plant growth,” PSA said.