By Ben Rosario
In a bid to shore up the rice stock of the National Food Authority (NFA), Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, on Thursday pushed for a P22 per kilo buying price for palay to entice farmers to support the government’s palay program.
The Davao City solon made the push while welcoming the recent adjustment of buying price of palay to P20 per kilo.
He said the decision of the NFA Council to improve its local palay procurement effort is laudable.
Under the NFAC plan, incentives will be granted rice farmers to effectively raise the buying price of palay to P20 kilo. This move is expected to entice local farmers to support the government’s palay program procurement program and at the same time, shore up rice stocks of NFA.
But Nograles stuck to his proposal for the NFAC to raise the buying price of palay to P22 per kilo.
Earlier, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, the concurrent NFA Council chairman,revealed that NFAC had approved the provision of incentives to rice farmers selling their palay to the government.
“The buying price of NFA remains at P17 per kilo, but we will come up with incentives that when quantified would reach P20 per kilo,” Piñol announced.
According to Piñol the NFA would give transportation incentives to farmers who would sell their crops to the government. They will likewise be entitled to receive farm equipment, among others.
For Nograles these developments are proof that President Duterte made the right move by giving jurisdiction of the NFA to the Department of Agriculture (DA) via Executive Order No. 62.
“I’m very happy that DA is back in the NFA council. I think there was a disconnect before nunghindinaisamaang Department of Agriculture sa NFA council,” said Nograles.
While Nograles lauded the additional incentives given to rice farmers, he reiterated his recommendation for the NFA Council to increase the buying price of palay to P22 per kilo.
“I continue to call on the NFA to raise the buying price to P22, so we can better help our farmers,” he said.
Release rice stocks, NFA urged
Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry urged the NFA to relax their permitting and other requirements for retailers under the PAG-ASA group of supermarkets and groceries to end the long line of consumers waiting to buy affordable rice.
Emerging from the National Price Coordinating Council (NPCC), DTI Undersecretary Ruth Castelo said they asked the NFA, represented by Director Rex Estoperez, to comply with the Memorandum Order by Malacañang to release all rice supply into the market.
“We reminded him of Memorandum Order 26,” Castelo said, adding that if they will not heed the DTI’s call then “It is not DTI they are refusing but Malacañang and President Duterte.”
Castelo stressed the need to relax the requirements to ensure that NFA is “visible, accessible and readily available.”
“We just wish that NFA will move faster and hope they can respond to the need of consumers,” she said as he urged NFA “to comply with the memorandum of agreement we signed.”
PAG-ASA President Steven Cua lamented that they are given the run around when all they are doing is help the government and comply its commitment under the MOA.
The NFA, meanwhile, raised the possibility of increasing its market participation beyond 20 percent to bring down prices of commercial rice to below P40 per kilo in two weeks’ time.
Estoperez said they have started a 20-percent market participation or market share of rice from 7 percent since the second week of September.
Estoperez said this is a calibrated move of the agency, meaning its market presence can be adjusted higher until such time that supply and price situation stabilizes.
Commercial rice is being sold at P41-P42 per kilo while the NFA rice is P27 per kilo.
He said that the line of rice buyers cannot be resolved overnight supply is still thin, but with the influx of production plus inventory and importation this would be enough to saturate the market.
At present, NFA has 2.3 million bags of rice inventory, which is good for 17 days supply at 20 percent market participation, at their warehouses, but once all the supply comes in, including the 750,000 MT importation, they will have total supply of 6 million bags, which is good for 50 days based on 20 percent market presence.
Of the 750,000 MT rice importation, the first batch of 250,000 will arrive end of November and rest before end this year. (With a report from Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat)