By Genalyn D. Kabiling
The government is looking forward to the reduction of local rice prices following the arrival of additional stocks imported by the National Food Authority (NFA).
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the cheaper government-subsidized rice imports from Vietnam and Thailand would be sold in the market at P27 and P32 a kilo.
“Nagkaroon ng kumpirmasyon na nakapasok na sa merkado ang mas murang NFA rice. Nasa merkado na ang kinalap ng ating NFA na bigas, 250,000 metric tons galing sa Vietnam at Thailand [It is confirmed that cheaper NFA rice has entered the market. The 250,000 metric tons rice imported by NFA from Vietnam and Thailand are available in the market],” Roque said during a Palace press briefing.
“So ngayong mas marami na NFA rice, inaasahan namin lalo pang bababa ang presyo ng bigas [With the delivery of more NFA rice now, we expect the price of rice to further decrease],” he added.
Citing information from the Department of Agriculture, Roque said commercial rice is now sold between P36 to P38 as a result of the arrival of the 250,000 metric tons of NFA rice from Subic.
“However, the rice in Subic has yet to be unloaded because of last week’s incessant rains. Once unloaded, it will be sold at NFA price of P27-P32,” he added.
President Duterte earlier ordered the NFA to proceed with the rice importation following a shortage in the government rice inventory. The low NFA buffer stock has reportedly led to the spike in the price of commercial rice in the market.
In boosting the country’s rice supply, Roque maintained government wants to prioritize the purchase of local grains from local farmers over rice importation.
NFA, he said has already been directed to buy palay from local farmers during harvest season to avoid a repeat in the shortage of government stocks.
He said government spends about P6 billion for every 250,000 metric tons of imported rice which could be used to buy grains from local farmers.
“(Budget) Secretary (Benjamin) Diokno has been firm in the last cabinet meeting that it was gross incompetence for NFA not to have purchased rice during harvest time to ensure na meron silang stock [they have stocks],” Roque said.
“Kapag bumili tayo kapag mataas ang ani, ang mag bebenepisyo gamit ang pera ng taumbayan, ay mga pilipinong magsasaka. E ngayon tayo’y kumakalap sa iba, binibigay lang natin ang pera sa mga dayuhang magsasaka [When we buy during harvest period, the Filipino farmers will benefit from the use of public funds. Now that we’ve imported rice, we’re just giving away the money to foreign farmers],” he added.
“Hindi natin jina-justify ang policy of importation at kinakailangan pa rin na gawin ng NFA ang kanilang katungkulan bumili kapag maraming ani at i-stockpile yan para pag wala nang ani, magkakaroon ng mas murang bigas para sa ating kababayan [We are not trying to justify the policy of importation. The NFA must still do its duty to buy rice during harvest season and put in the stockpile so if it’s lean season, our countrymen will still have cheaper rice],” he added.
Roque recalled that domestic rice prices increased due to “panic” over the perceived shortage of rice in the country weeks ago. He said many did not understand there was actually ample supply of commercial rice then.
“Ang naubos lang NFA rice [What was depleted was the supply of NFA rice],” he said because of NFA’s failure to purchase local grains during harvest season.
The NFA, the government’s grains agency, is required to maintain a rice stockpile good for 15 days at any given time and for 30 days during lean months. The President recently asked the NFA to increase the NFA buffer stock to 60 days to ensure stable supply.