By Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos
The National Food Authority (NFA) Council will go after hoarders who they called “immoral” and can be charged with economic sabotage.
NFA Council Chair and Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco made the announcement Monday afternoon as he announced that the standby authority to import 250,000 metric tons of rice has been approved.
“Can you sleep at night knowing that a lot of people don’t have anything to buy [rice], and yet you’re hoarding so much? Economic sabotage ‘yan. They will have to be prosecuted,” Evasco said in a press briefing in Malacañang Monday.
“I think the NFA should be very proactive in monitoring first warehouses managed and ran by private traders. Private traders will always go for high price at the expense of the buying public,” he added.
According to Evasco, there will be an evaluation on NFA’s strategies to determine if the agency made lapses in dealing with hoarders.
“We did not make any definite conclusion on that, we just ask if there’s going to be an evaluation as to the strategies done by the NFA in buying, stocking, distribution, and everything,” he said.
According to Evasco, the standby authority to import 250,000 MT has been approved and considering the timing of the harvest season, the importation should arrive after the said harvest season, or by the end of June.
He also said that the mode of importation for the 250,000 metric tons Standby Authority will be government-to-private importation or Open Tender Procurement based on the same Terms of Reference as in the previous Government to Private Procurement of 2017.
Last week, President Duterte issued verbal instruction to go ahead in the importation of 250,000 metric tons of rice, subject to the NFA Council’s assessment on the timing and mode of importation.
Duterte’s order came following reports that there are no more NFA Rice available in the market.
Meanwhile, Evasco reiterated that there is no shortage of rice in the country and that the government is just importing rice to satisfy the required buffer stock of 30 days.
Evasco, in his press briefing, admitted that the country has only two days of buffer stock left. Buffer stock refers to the rice the country has in reserve in the event of typhoons and other eventualities.
“In this manner, the NFA Council has issued a directive on the reassessment of the inventory of the NFA, including its procurement and distribution strategies,” he added.
Currently, the NFA Management is implementing the Minimum Access Volume (MAV) Rice Importation Program amounting to 728,475.00 metric tons of rice. Of the said figure, 221,457 metric tons of rice had already arrived.
“The first tranche [is set to] arrive before the end of 28th February 2018, and the second not later than 31st August 2018,” Evasco said.
“As of February 2018, the country has 121 days of rice supply equal to 3.8 million metric tons,” he added.