250,000 MT of rice due in May to boost NFA stockpile

Published March 24, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

By Genalyn Kabiling

At least 250,000 metric tons (MT) of imported rice would be delivered to the country in May to boost the government stockpile, a Palace official announced Thursday.

The 3 warehouse of the National Food Authority (NFA) for Region 7 in the North Reclamation Area in Cebu City were each can accomodate atleast 150,000 to 200,000 sacks of rice only has 8,000, 22,000 and 12,000 on each bodegas and is critically low in supply due no importation. The remaining bags of rice will only be used for the programs of Depoartment of Social Welfare Development (DSWD) and buffer supply for calamities. (Photo by Juan Carlo de Vela/Manila Bulletin)

The arrival of the fresh stocks came after the National Food Authority (NFA) Council authorized the importation of rice through an open tender scheme with the private sector.

The rice importation was among the agreements reached during a meeting convened by President Duterte with the NFA Council, other food agency officials, and economic mangers in Malacañang last Monday.

“Mabuti pang sobra kaysa kulang, kasi kapag inabutan tayo, problema iyan! [It’s better to have a surplus than a shortage because if we reach that, that will be a problem],” the President was quoted as saying by Office of the Cabinet Secretary Assistant Secretary Jonas Soriano.

“Even with a very sufficient supply of rice for the entire country to date, the NFA Management is directed to start the procurement process of the approved standby authority to import 250,000 metric tons to increase the current NFA rice inventory or buffer stock,” Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco Jr. said in a statement read by Soriano during a Palace press briefing.

“The said rice import is set to arrive May of this year. This is to allow the NFA to have enough buffer stock for the upcoming lean months of the year in which rice harvest is at its lowest,” said Evasco, head of the NFA Council.

Evasco said the mode of procurement of the 250,000 metric tons would be government-to-private importation or open tender scheme. The terms of reference will be the same as in the previous government-to-private procurement last year, he added.

“We would like to assure the public that the NFA Council is keen on ensuring continued supply of affordable rice for Filipino people while working hand in hand with other departments to ensure the interest of the Filipino farmers and their families as part of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s commitment for a better Philippines and a comfortable life for the Filipinos,” he said.

In the same Palace meeting, Evasco said the NFA Council has tasked the NFA management to work with the Department of Trade and Industry to identify and tag rice imports under the Minimum Access Volume to ensure its affordability to the consumers.

“It was also agreed that DTI shall step up and intensify price monitoring to ensure unwarranted increases and or price manipulation in rice prices,” he said.

The NFA Council has also directed the NFA management to increase domestic buying of palay especially during the early days of the harvest months, according to Evasco.

The NFA should carry out “creative strategies in the form of incentives or sweeteners” for farmers to sell their products to the agency, Evasco said. “The main thrust is to buy locally first prior to considering importation. We protect our farmers first,” he added.

He said the NFA must also aggressively implement measures to reduce the production cost of rice such as mechanization, investment that will increase yield of rice, among others.

The Council also called for amendments to Republic Act No. 8178, otherwise known as the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996 to protect rice farmers from the lifting of qualitative restrictions on rice imports.

“The bill seeks to prescribe tariff rates for rice importation, strengthen the rice sector to meet the head on challenges of import threats, and keep the Philippine food secure and provide funds to the rice sector based on a rice industry roadmap,” Evasco said.