By Raymund Antonio
Vice President Ma. Leonor “Leni” Robredo suggested ways to deal with problems resulting in the shortage of buffer stock of National Food Authority (NFA) rice.
Robredo, who once served as housing secretary in the Duterte administration, presented an option to the government: subsidize NFA’s purchase of rice grains.
She said the shortage of subsidized rice was due to the low farm gate price ceiling of the government.
“Iyong dahilan talaga nito, dahil mababa iyong bili ng NFA. Iyong ibang mga supplier dito, ang bili nila is 19 pesos; ang NFA ay 17 [pesos] lang iyong bili. So sino iyong ma-e- engganyong magbenta sa NFA (The reason really behind it is because the NFA buys it at a lower price. The other suppliers here buy it at P19; NFA buys it at P17. So who will be enticed to sell it to NFA)?” Robredo said.
With this, the Vice President explained that local producers would rather sell their products at a higher price to private retailers.
“Baka puwedeng makabili at 19 [pesos], para mapunuan lang iyong ideal na buffer stock para bumaba ulit iyong presyo ng bigas (Maybe they can buy it for P19 so they can meet the ideal buffer stock in order the prices of rice will go down),” she said.
The Vice President proposed to increase the farm gate price from P17 to P19 during her recent visit to Pili Public Market, Camarines Sur, where she checked on rice prices and the availability of subsidized rice in the area.
Robredo, a former Camarines Sur representative, spoke with retailers and consumers, who told her about NFA rice shortage in the market that caused the price increase.
According to Robredo, accredited NFA retailers also disclosed that “they have received less than their scheduled allocation since January.”
Due to the fast-depleting buffer stock, the NFA stopped selling the affordable rice to accredited retailers, resulting in the shortage of the subsidized rice that led to the spike in prices of commercial rice.
“Nababahala sila kasi una, hinahanap talaga ng tao iyong NFA rice kasi siya talaga iyong mas mura, saka maganda na din iyong quality. Pangalawa, kapag kulang iyong NFA rice, nagshu-shoot up talaga iyong prices ng commercial rice(They are concerned because first, people really look for NFA rice since it’s really cheap and it has good quality. Second, if we lack NFA rice, prices of commercial rice will really shoot up),” she said.