By Genalyn Kabiling
The National Food Authority (NFA) Council has allowed local rice traders to import more rice to augment the country’s stock and bring down prices, Malacañang announced Friday.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the NFA council has authorized the private sector-led importation of rice “beyond the Minimum Access Volume” (MAV) regime.
“Dahil ito po’y minimum, pupuwede pong tumaas pa ang ating importation at dahil sa mga pangyayari po at para mapababa po ang presyo ng bigas, mag-o-authorize po ang NFA Council para sa pribadong sektor – uulitin ko po, para sa pribadong sektor na mag-angkat ng bigas beyond the Minimum Access Volume for 2018 [Because this is minimum, we can raise our importation and because of the recent events and to bring down rice prices, the NFA Council has allowed the private sector to import rice beyond the Minimum Access Volume for 2018],” he said during a Palace press briefing.
“Na-bid out na iyong MAV for 2018 ‘no. Pero ang punto po is, pupuwede naman na tumaas pa iyong aangkatin na bigas [The MAV allocation for 2018 has been bidded out. But the point is we can raise the rice importation volume],” he said.
With the latest decision of the NFA Council, Roque sought the cooperation of the NFA administration on the rice importation by the private sector.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol earlier proposed the importation of 132,000 metric tons of rice to boost the stocks in some areas in Mindanao where prices have increased in recent weeks due to limited supply.
Piñol said the first 32,000 metric tons of rice imports would be delivered to Zambasulta (Zamoanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi). The NFA is expected to issue import permits for the remaining 100,000 metric tons following a bidding process.
The country’s minimum access volume of rice importation has been pegged at 805,200 metric tons this year.
Malacañang, meantime, said the government is pushing for the lifting of the rice import quota and imposition of the 35-percent tariff rate instead. Roque said the rice tariffication bill would liberalize rice importation to ensure stable supply and curb corruption.
“Kapag meron na tayong tariffication at legal na talagang mag-import, wala nang magi-smuggle, wala nang mag-a-attempt at magbabayad na lang ng taripa [If we have tarffication and it’s legal to import, no one would attempt to smuggle and instead pay the tariffs],” he said in a radio interview.
“So, iyan ang nais nating mangyari, magkaroon ng totoong law of supply and demand, papasukin ang supply ng sa ganoon ay bumaba ang presyo [That’s what we want to happen. There will a real law of supply and demand. There will be supply to help reduce prices],” he added.