By Madelaine B. Miraflor
Before it runs out of imported stocks by August, the National Food Authority (NFA) is now targeting to buy from local farmers more than 220,000 metric tons (MT) of rice within the first six months of the year, which is five times higher the amount of unhusked rice it was able to buy last year.
This, as the agency will no longer be allowed to import rice once the Rice Tariffication Bill is signed.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the NFA targets to procure as much as 7 million bags of palay within the first half of the year, which is equivalent to 350,000 metric tons (MT) of unhusked rice.
This would be the highest palay procurement the agency could achieve in five years and the second highest since 2013 when the agency was able to procure as much as 365,582 MT or 7.3 million bags of palay.
From January to December 2018, NFA procured a total of 1.23 million bags of palay nationwide, which is higher than the 588,820 bags of palay it bought in 2017.
This was a miss by more than a half of the agency’s local palay procurement target for last year, which was pegged at 2.6 million bags or 130,000 MT.
Despite the shortfall, Piñol is hopeful the NFA could achieve, even surpass, its first half target on the back of Buffer Stocking Incentive (BSI) that took effect in October.
Of the total palay procured in 2018, 1.15 million bags were bought from October to November or since the BSI worth P3 per kilogram (/kg) was added to the existing P17/kg palay buying price.
“With the tariffication, we are now intensifying our local procurement program. We are projecting we will run out of imported stocks by August. And with tariffication, NFA is no longer allowed to import and for me that’s okay,” Piñol said in an interview with reporters.
For his part, NFA Acting Administrator Tomas Escarez said the agency is now preparing for the “projected influx of palay deliveries” for the year.
“To help sustain our farmers’ productivity and profitability, we will be pouring all possible resources on buying all the harvest that farmers would be selling to NFA,” Escarez said.
In a meeting between DA, NFA and Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) last January 11, Piñol pledged support to NFA’s procurement operations by setting up drying facilities in NFA buying stations to dry freshly harvested palay bought from farmers.
Piñol said the drying facilities from DA may also be made available for free use by farmers.
The DA will also provide trucks to NFA to pick up farmers’ produce at the farms based on DA’s identified harvest and pick up points.
National Movement for Food Sovereignty (NMFS) already pointed out before that it’s not wise for the Philippine government to rely on importation to fulfill the country’s growing demand for rice.